Directed by Jeremy Saulnier.
2016. Rated R, 95 minutes.
David W. Thompson
Pat (Yelchin), Sam (Shawkat), Reece (Cole), and Tiger (Turner) are the members of up and coming punk band, The Ain't Rights. They're living out of their van as they travel around the Pacific Northwest picking up gigs wherever they can. Their latest show falls through after they've already arrived and did an interview with Tad (Thompson), a local radio host. Tad is also the promoter so he is understandably apologetic. He makes a phone call or two and connects with a cousin who runs a club down the road a piece and has a slot open he's willing to let The Ain't Rights have. Much to their chagrin, the cousin and all his clientele are rather aggressive neo-Nazis. Reluctantly, the band rides over to play a set because a job is a job, right? Despite a few tense moments early, the show goes well, the band gets paid and they're on their way out the door. Before they exit the building, Pat realizes he's done something I'm willing to bet everyone reading this has done at least once. He left his cell phone behind. When he goes back to the dressing room, the titular green room, he sees a young woman lying dead on the floor and a bunch of guilty looking dudes standing around. Needless to say, the whole band is rudely ushered back into the green room and not allowed to leave until their not-so-gracious hosts sort this thing out. The band, plus murder witness Amber (Poots), trying to escape the club without being slaughtered ensues.
The opening minutes of Green Room serves to develop our characters rather nicely. This includes the time we spend with them on stage, seeing them react to a very hostile crowd. We get to know them a bit and see how they handle difficult situations. This is useful information as their situation becomes really difficult in rather short order. That difficulty only increases as the film progresses. The level of tension also remains on a steady incline. We quickly get in their corner, and are yanked to the edge of our seats because it seems they have an impossible task ahead of them. Each of the actors playing our heroes fit snugly into their roles, making us believe in the hopelessness of their predicament. We get strong performances from them across the board.
Also helpful is the fact that our bad guys are unrepentant in their evil. Like the best villains, they truly feel they are right in their beliefs. Sure, these guys know many of the things they do are illegal, but they still think they are right. They are also blindly loyal to their leader, Darcy, played with an unsettling calmness by Patrick Stewart. Before sitting down to watch this film, I had no idea he was in it. Once he entered the picture, it was clear why he was chosen. He commands the screen, and the actors he shares it with, while simultaneously making our skin crawl. It's the most menacing performance of Stewart's that I have seen. From a functionality standpoint, Darcy constantly pushes the plot forward by maneuvering everyone around him like chess pieces. Every step of the way, we not only believe Darcy would behave this way, but that everyone else would react to him in just the manner shown. The multitude of henchmen at his disposal are only too eager to please him. Though dim they may be, they aren't totally ineffective, keeping the stakes rather high for the good guys.
Lots of credit is due to director and writer Jeremy Saulnier, as well. He directed one of my favorite films of 2014, Blue Ruin, and this follow-up proves it was no fluke. The man knows how to crank up the volume on our nerves without rushing us along. He does it again, here, with Green Room. He also employs what he calls "full frontal gore," helping this movie fit firmly within the horror genre. Don't go wandering in thinking this is just about guys standing around trying to outsmart each other. This film goes into some dark and visceral places both narratively and visually. It takes the characters there, too, and doesn't let any of us out until the final credits. Because he has proven so adept at grabbing his audiences by the throat, I am hotly anticipating the release of his next project.