GREEN ROOM (Dir- Jeremy Saulnier, USA, 2015)
Starring- Anton Yelchin, Imogen Poots, Patrick Stewart, Alia Shawkat, Callum Turner, Joe Cole
UK Cinema release May 13th 2016
Jeremy Saulnier’s previous feature, BLUE RUIN, made quite an impression, particularly on this reviewer as it ended up in my best of 2014 list as it was a superb take on the revenge drama with a protagonist who sets out on a quest of vengeance but is out of his depth. Since then and since last year’s Cannes film festival in which this film was premièred GREEN ROOM has been high on my list of films to see of 2016 and thankfully Dead By Dawn festival had this as their opening night film.
Much like BLUE RUIN the protagonists in this film find themselves eventually plunged into a situation that they are not used to and have to muster up their own survival instincts to at least have some chance of getting out alive. This time round it’s a punk band called The Ain’t Rights consisting of Pat (Yelchin), Sam (Shawkat), Reece (Cole) and Tiger (Turner) who are on tour through the pacific northwest of America. They are broke having to syphon fuel from parked cars to get to their next gig. They meet a local radio host who puts them in touch with a contact and gets the band a gig with decent pay, at an out of town club outside of Portland. Little do the band realise that the club is Neo-Nazi run.
At their gig they jokingly play a cover of Dead Kennedy’s Nazi Punks Fuck Off which antagonises the crowd. After the show when Pat goes to retrieve Sam’s phone and he walks in on a recently murdered dead body with the perpetrators standing over it. The bouncers of the club quickly keep the band behind against their will and it soon becomes clear that they are a problem. The band themselves soon realise the situation and soon fight back taking one of the club bouncers hostage and helped by club regular Amber (Poots). Soon when head of the Nazi group Darcy (Stewart) comes to sort the mess out, it becomes clear that the punks are marked for death and soon have to figure out a way to fight back.
As mentioned previously like BLUE RUIN the film focuses on characters who are out of their depth and not used to this situation. The punks themselves are fantastically portrayed by the cast, and their rendition of Nazi Punks Fuck Off is a great and brilliant comic scene in terms of the band deliberately taking the piss out of its audience but then realising that it might not be the right choice of song as there is more of the crowd than of them. Yet the scenes where they confront and stand off against the Nazi’s are done in such a way to show their vulnerability and amateur thinking that ends up causing some nasty injury’s to them. Then when things start to go out of control they soon dig down in deep and become just as brutal as their captors utilising what ever they can get their hands on as weapons. These scenes are superbly staged and Saulnier doesn’t skimp on showing the nasty and gruesome results.
Yet they are also thrilling and intense and matched with a vain of dark humour throughout but supplemented with a sense of dread especially whenever the heroes of our picture step out of the room which is their hold up and which becomes the films only safe haven. There’s a hint of a throwback to the horror films of 80’s and 70’s with its simplistic grindhouse style, basic plot and moments of jarring violence. As in BLUE RUIN, Saulnier manages to conjure up something fresh and thrilling from a basic under siege story and also pits two sides against each other that express differing views. The band with its left-wing ideals and antagonistic expression through their performance and music up against the more harsher and regime like world of the neo-Nazi group.
This is evident when Darcy (Stewart) arrives to close down the scene and get rid of the punks as he organises his fascist obsessed troops in military fashion to block off any exits that the band can escape from and utilise vicious attack dogs against them. Playing against type Stewart is excellent in his role. Sporting an almost Walter White look, he obviously relishes this chance to play a character that is more tactical commander than straight out boo-hiss villain and in many respects you can understand the reasons for his actions in that he has been left no other choice but to dispatch the witnesses than face the fall out that will unveil some of the not so legal operations behind his venue.
Often thrilling, fun and a wild ride GREEN ROOM is a fantastic follow up to BLUE RUIN. Managing to capture a naturalistic look in the films early stages and making use of the films club location with its grimy, dark and run down look as well as infusing this with a brilliant soundtrack of punk and death metal that complements the brutal action, Saulnier has made a superb, darkly comic and bloody genre picture that is thrilling and full of gritty energy that again confirms him as a talent whose next feature will again be highly anticipated.