Green Room Review

Posted: August 10, 2016 by Daniel Simpson (PG Cooper) in PG Cooper's Movie Reviews

green-room-posterWritten by Daniel “PG Cooper” Simpson

It’s always exciting when great filmmaking talent emerges seemingly from nowhere. That’s how I felt two years ago when a crowd sourced film called Blue Ruin became one of the best reviewed films of the year and simultaneously announced Jeremy Saulnier as a director to watch. I didn’t quite love Blue Ruin like a lot of people did, but it was a very strongly made film and demonstrated Saulnier’s fine handle on tone. Blue Ruin wasn’t technically Saulnier’s first film but most certainly was his breakthrough and gave him access to more money and a more famous cast for his new film; a horror/thriller of sorts called Green Room.

The film opens following a modern day punk rock band called The Ain’t Rights (or The Aren’t Rights, they later say) comprised of bassist Pat (Anton Yelchin), guitarist Sam (Alia Shawkat), drummer Reece (Joe Cole), and singer Tiger (Callum Turner). The group follow the old-school ethos of punk in that their severe efforts to avoid selling out to “the man”. This has made them somewhat obscure as they have no social media presence and has also led to some very lackluster gigs. In something of a tight spot, the group agrees to perform at a skinhead bar for a bunch of Neo-Nazi’s. Despite not sharing their views, the show goes fairly well. However things go south when the band returns to their green room and stumble across the murder of a young woman. Now The Ain’t Rights are trapped in the back of this bar as the owner and skinhead leader Darcy (Patrick Stewart) tries to dispose of them the most efficient way possible.

Perhaps the most interesting aspect of Green Room is the bits early on which establish The Ain’t Rights. I’m no expert, but Saulnier seems to depict the modern Punk Rock scene with a lot of authenticity and if nothing else it’s a unique milieu to give a film. There’s also perhaps something to be said thematically in terms of how the band is so quick to reject selling out but barely hesitate at playing a show for hateful Neo-Nazis. It’s an interesting perspective on how people so committed to a certain ideology can inadvertently have their values skewed. These bits are so good in fact that I think the film’s greatest flaw is that it does not spend more time exploring The Ain’t Rights and developing the characters before the murder occurs. Once the band is thrown into the meat grinder the film becomes remarkably straight-forward. Knowing more about the band would have gone a long way to make the viewer invest more into the film and it also would have made the aforementioned values theme feel more substantial. In fact, once Green Room becomes a full on thriller the fact that the protagonists are punks and the antagonists skinheads become kind of irrelevant.

While the film does become a lot more standard in terms of its writing, I did remain compelled by Saulnier’s work behind the camera. The film’s dark cinematography looks great and Saulnier continues to show an excellent handle on tone. There’s a palpable sense of dread to Green Room which builds nicely and the film has a handful of really solid set-pieces. Saulnier draws the suspense out as long as he can before punctuating a scene with some (usually) brief but very grizzly violence. This isn’t a film which wallows in misery and suffering, but the moments of violence are very graphic and certainly not for the faint of heart. Still, while the violence is shocking enough on a visceral level, I can’t say I actually felt much as various characters bit the dust. The film is so straight-forward that one quickly accepts that a lot of the protagonists are likely to die so there isn’t much in the way of surprise and without proper development it’s hard to really mourn their loss either. The well-executed set-pieces do somewhat offset this, but they aren’t so well-executed that I can forget how little substance there really is to the whole affair.

So what did I think about Green Room? Well, I liked it I guess. It’s certainly a very effectively made thriller that kept my interest and features some pretty memorable moments. Saulnier continues to prove himself a capable craftsman and he has yet again made something good with Green Room, but not great. At the end of the day this is a pretty shallow experience even if it’s a fairly enjoyable one from a genre perspective. I’m hoping that Saulnier teams with another screenwriter for his next effort because with a more substantial script I think he could make something pretty special. In the meantime, I can certainly settle with a solid and stylishly made thriller like Green Room.

B-

Comments
  1. Mark Walker says:

    Great review, man. I loved Blue Ruin but didn’t quite love Green Room, as many seem to. It was a very well made siege film but it lost steam the more it progressed. That said, there was still a lot of style on show and a good feel for the genre. I was impressed but I wasn’t blown away.

    • I can relate to that perspective. I think the sense of inevitability plays into the losing steam. It’s so apparent from the outset where things are going that it almost the interest level just kind of stagnates.

      • Mark Walker says:

        I actually just wrapped up my own review recently and our opinions seems to fall in line. I don’t know if it was just me but I had issues with the paintball experience that Yelchin’s character had being a reason for him to stand up and be counted. It felt a little desperate and tenuous, as if Saulnier didn’t know how to write his way out of things.

      • I can see that. I also had an issue with the recurring “desert island band” bit which seemed more and more forced as the film went on. A little thing perhaps but it did stand out.

      • Mark Walker says:

        That’s exactly how I felt. My gripes seem small and pedantic but issues did stand out. It’ll be interesting on a second watch. Not a bad film at all but I wonder if I’ll be as forgiving on a revisit.

      • I think in this case the small issues add up because the film is so simplistic.

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