Green Room Director: Jeremy Saulnier
Screenwriter: Jeremy Saulnier
Cast: Anton Yelchin, Imogen Poots, Alia Shawkat, Joe Cole, Callum Turner, Patrick Stewart
Distributor: A24 Films
Rated R | 95 Minutes
Release Date: April 29, 2016
“Now, whatever you saw or did. Is no longer my concern. But let’s be clear. It won’t end well.”
Assault on Precinct 13 meets American History X in Green Room, the latest nerve-shattering cinematic experience from writer-director Jeremy Saulnier (Blue Ruin). This brilliantly crafted bloodbath is the very definition of “splatterpunk.”
The Ain’t Rights, a hardcore punk band comprised of singer Tiger (Callum Turner), guitarist Sam (Alia Shawkat), bassist Pat (Anton Yelchin), and drummer Reece (Joe Cole), are touring the Pacific Northwest, siphoning gas to make it from one shitty gig to another.
Their luck changes – or so they think – when they get a lucrative gig at a rural Oregon club. There’s just one catch – their audience is a bunch of neo-Nazi skinheads. So what do the Ain’t Rights do? They lead off their set with the Dead Kennedys’ “Nazi Punks Fuck Off.” After spitting in the face of their hate-filled audience, the band witnesses something backstage they weren’t meant to see. Now trapped in the green room, the band must contend with the club’s owner, Darcy Banker (Patrick Stewart), a sinister man who will stop at nothing to protect his business.
Green Room is a blunt-force narrative – a brutal, visceral affair that is felt in your guts. In the same way Blue Ruin reinvents the revenge thriller, Green Room offers a new spin on the siege film. There are bits and pieces of films like Night of the Living Dead, Die Hard, The Raid, and Straw Dogs here, with resilient protagonists who are outnumbered and out of their depth. These kids aren’t action heroes though, they’re young punks with their backs against the wall. Panic-stricken and soaked with sweat, the anxiety the Ain’t Rights feel bleeds through the screen and creeps into our veins. This movie hit me like a sledgehammer to the skull, and days later I still find myself wincing in pain at the residual images of violence rattling around inside my head.
It’s for this reason that I can’t say I enjoyed Saulnier’s film, though I am terribly impressed by it. Like Requiem for a Dream, The Road, or The Tribe, Green Room is devastating in a way that makes it hard to recommend. This isn’t a passive experience meant to entertain; this is an intense, emotionally draining movie that will leave you feeling used up. It’s unrelenting, with a nightmarish momentum that comes from the story’s rigid, claustrophobic structure.
While the violence in Green Room is savage, the body count is relatively low. It’s the emotional impact of the violence — you care about the victims and it’s gut-wrenching when they’re hurt. Of course, the reason this is so effective is thanks in large part to first-rate performances from an excellent ensemble. The kids in the band all have their individual strengths and weaknesses, which is why working together as a team is so pivotal in escaping this neo-Nazi hellhole. Patrick Stewart provides a diabolical turn as Darcy, who is refined yet lethal. Like a charismatic cult leader, Darcy has emboldened his army of skinheads with the power of belief. They have a cause they’re willing to kill for, and there’s nothing more terrifying than that.
Saulnier’s latest is a hardcore horror-thriller and one of the most potent films I’ve seen this year. A masterwork of sustained tension, this movie demands to be seen in a dark theater with an audience. Thanks to A24, the distributor of films like Spring Breakers, Under the Skin, Ex Machina, and The Witch, you’ll get your chance when Green Room opens wide in theaters on April 29. For tickets, check out the official website.