Review by Derrick Carter
Running Time: 1 hour 35 minutes
MPAA Rating: R for Strong Brutal Graphic Violence, Gory Images, Language and some Drug Content
Directed by: Jeremy Saulnier
Written by: Jeremy Saulnier
Starring: Anton Yelchin, Imogen Poots, Alia Shawkat, Joe Cole, Callum Turner, Patrick Stewart, Macon Blair & Mark Webber
Despite having only three features under his belt, director/writer Jeremy Saulnier has slowly, but surely been making a name for himself in the independent film scene. Saulnier started his short filmography with cheesy horror-comedy MURDER PARTY and followed that up with acclaimed thriller BLUE RUIN. He’s now back with the heavily hyped GREEN ROOM. This simple, to-the-point survival-horror flick is vicious, intense, and shocking. It also heavily relies on dumb horror movie victim logic, which slightly detracts from the smarter, more effective pieces of this otherwise entertaining thriller.
Punk band “The Ain’t Rights” (played by Anton Yelchin, Alia Shawkat, Joe Cole, and Callum Turner) live off-the-grid and do the best they can to make ends meet. After their latest gig falls through, the four friends/bandmates take a quick job at an isolated club in the middle of the woods. It’s obvious that the venue is a skinhead joint (complete with swastika graffiti and white power stickers), but the band needs the money so they complete their set anyway. On the way out, they accidentally stumble into something they weren’t supposed to see: a woman with a knife sticking out of her head. Soon enough, “The Ain’t Rights” and the deceased’s friend (Imogen Poots) find themselves fighting for their lives against enraged, heavily armed neo-Nazis.
GREEN ROOM is a tense ride that frequently had me on the edge of my seat. Jeremy Saulnier’s screenplay is smart enough to thwart expectations in certain areas and avoids lots of exposition as a result. Smaller details are set up early on and it’s up to the viewer to connect the dots revolving around certain aspects of the skinhead secret society. There are a couple of moments that deliberately seem to be heading into overly familiar clichéd territory and then totally shoot those notions down with shocking violence that received audible gasps from myself and the rest of the audience. The screenplay is far from flawless though as the bandmates aren’t well-developed or entirely believable. As a result, a character will meet a horrible end and their absence doesn’t feel like a big loss. However, the shocking effect of how they met their demise manages to linger in the air.
It’s frustrating to see a script, with some very clever writing, resort to idiotic character decisions in order to further things along. Besides these characters not being relatable or necessarily likable, they are not too bright either. Common sense doesn’t fully kick in during certain intense scenes and characters are constantly making really dumb (borderline unbelievable) choices as a result. These distracting bits didn’t dissuade me from enjoying the film as a whole though, because there are a lot of remaining factors to like.
The cinematography is slick and well-shot. There’s none of the shaky-cam that we see all too often in modern action and horror flicks. I absolutely love the detailed club setting. Tension builds naturally through simply watching the carefully constructed on-screen (occasionally, off-screen) chaos. Speaking of which, this movie’s set pieces are friggin’ insane. The trapped “Ain’t Rights” aren’t exactly left with a lot of bullets or options. As a result, we get to see box-cutters, rusty bits of metal, a microphone, and other nasty objects creatively employed as improvised weapons. Bones are broken. Flesh is cut. Blood is spilled. This is one friggin’ violent movie, but it never goes unbelievably over-the-top in its gory mayhem.
As I mentioned before, the protagonists aren’t exactly fleshed-out. You could shuffle Anton Yelchin, Imogen Poots, Alia Shawkat, Joe Cole, and Callum Turner around and it wouldn’t make a damn bit of difference in the proceedings. The skinheads are far more interesting to watch and that probably shouldn’t be the case. These colorful neo-Nazi baddies distinctly stand out in their roles, be it the hulking doorman armed with a massive gun or the dog trainer who has flesh-eating pooches. You can easily tell these antagonists apart. Saulnier film regular Macon Blair (villain in MURDER PARTY, protagonist in BLUE RUIN) is great as Gabe, a staff member who attempts to keep a level-head in spite of the copious amount of death surrounding him.
GREEN ROOM’s show-stopping performance comes from Patrick Stewart (of all people) as sociopathic, strategic skinhead leader Darcy. Darcy is remarkably calm and calculating in how he wages a mini-war upon the ill-equipped punk band. Stewart’s neo-Nazi leader has a deliberately dialed down way of speaking that somehow makes him even more frightening to watch. If you passed this guy on the street, you wouldn’t look twice because he does not seem like a psychopath. That’s exactly why this “reasonable” club owner makes for such a great villain though.
Though it relies too heavily on dumb character decisions and the protagonists aren’t exactly interesting people, GREEN ROOM is a lot of bloody fun. The beautiful visuals, intense atmosphere, and gory set pieces make the film worth watching, if you’re into this sort of thing. Patrick Stewart impressively knocks it out of the park as the neo-Nazi main villain and that’s a role I bet you never expected to see him play. The writing also shines through as very smart in places, mostly when “The Ain’t Rights” aren’t being morons. Though I feel this film would have been better with less stupid horror movie victim logic, GREEN ROOM is an entertaining blast of mayhem, violence, and shocks.