Rating: B+/ I’ve seen tremendous promise in filmmaker Jeremy Saulnier ever since I first watched his 2013 Kickstarter-funded indie thriller, Blue Ruin. So naturally I was thrilled when I heard that Saulnier was reuniting with the star of Blue Ruin, Macon Blair, as well as casting some more well-known actors in a new film, Green Room. Patrick Stewart as a skinhead sociopath asshole? Yes please! When I saw the trailers that debuted on the internet, my excitement only grew. And I’m happy to say, ladies and gentlemen, that Green Room is a invigorating , explosively violent, and entertaining thriller.
It takes a little bit more of a fast-paced approach to the violence it depicts than Blue Ruin, and Blue Ruin is still my favorite of the two films, but Green Room still approaches it’s cruelty from a fairly realistic perspective. The protagonists of Green Room react much as one would imagine they would react when faced with an act of shocking, gory brutality. They panic. They fight among themselves. They make stupid decisions, but decisions that make sense in the context of their pain and fear, not idiotic tropes written specifically in to advance the plot.
Anton Yelchin (R.I.P.) plays Pat, the lead singer of an amateur punk band, The Ain’t Rights, who is trying to make a living off his music. Most people would shy away from doing a gig at a road house crawling with neo-nazis, but it appears that the Ain’t Rights really, really need the money. In fact, they must need it desperately, and their troubles multiply when the brazen Pat decides to play an anti-skinhead punk song to a den full of pissed-off, drugged-up white supremacists. Everything seems to have gone down without a hitch when the lone female member of the band, Sam (Alia Shawkat,) goes back to get her cell phone, and the group find the bloody corpse of a young skinhead girl.
That’s when all hell breaks loose, and the skinheads call in Darcy (Patrick Stewart), a bored psychopath who slowly and deliberately goes about removing all evidence that the musicians have ever been there, and the band members desperately try to survive what is unequivocally the worst night of their lives. Attack dogs, box cutters, and shotgun shells all converge in a extremely violent confrontation. Reluctantly, the protagonists team up with the dead girl’s friend (Imogen Poots) to push back against the looming threat that wants to wipe them out.
If you are squeamish about extreme violence, do not watch this movie. Blue Ruin was bloody, but Green Room ups the ante with some of the most sadistic action sequences of the year. A bit less leisurely paced and nuanced than Blue Ruin, Green Room is nonetheless a very effective movie which remains shockingly believable even when other movies would have taken the premise and devolved into pure silliness. You can’t take your eyes away from the screen. One criticism I have is that due to the fact the film focuses on action and physical confrontation, the characters could have been fleshed out a little more.
However, all the actors do an excellent job at playing their roles, and I was happy to see Macon Blair again as Darcy’s ambivalent toadie, Gabe. Although he does not get as many scenes or reach the level of greatness that he did as Dwight in Blue Ruin (for which he should have won an Oscar, definitely,) Blair demonstrates again that he is a extremely underrated actor. And Stewart, for a lack of a better word, is sublime. Jeremy Saulnier is one of the most technically impressive filmmakers of the 21st Century, and if you haven’t seen any of his movies, get on it- his work is a must-watch for anybody who is interested in modern independent cinema.