Green Room is the punk rock thriller we needed and deserved.
The first time I watched Green Room, it couldn’t have been a more appropriate time. It was around earlier this year and I had recently developed an almost a mad infatuation with punk music. I’m not quite sure what triggered it, but all i know is that for months I was devouring all the info I could find about classic bands like: The Clash, FEAR, Black Flag and The Dead Kennedys.
So when I finally decided to watch the film (after having it in my watch-list for an embarrassing amount of time) it was out of desire to just ingest anything hardcore punk related. I wasn’t expecting the movie to completely blow me away, but as soon the credits hit the screen, I knew this was banger.
Green Room is a tense, claustrophobic, darkly humorous, thriller about Punks vs Neo-Nazis. It has no right being as good as it is.
The unfortunate heroes of our story are Pat (Anton Yelchin), Sam (Alia Shawkat), Reece (Joe Cole) and Tiger (Callum Turner). Four members of a struggling punk band called the Ain’t Rights, who get by playing in embarrassingly small venues and siphoning gas when they’re desperate. Contrary to how I just described them, the film does an excellent job of making these characters very likeable. They’re crass yet laid back attitude,clear passion and friendship immediately charms you and succeeds in making later events feel more even harrowing.
Down on their luck after a cancelled show, they begrudgingly accept a gig at a Skinhead bar in the backwoods of Portland. After a particularly hostile set, where they play a cover of the Dead Kennedys song “Nazi punks F**ck Off”, they begin packing up, leading Sam to forget her phone in the green room, only to discover a grisly murder scene. From this point on they become trapped in the green room and the skinhead leader Darcy (played chillingly by Sir Patrick Stewart) comes in to “handle the situation”. From there the film becomes a visceral cramped nightmare.
What was so refreshing about the films premise is the strength of all the characters clashing personalities, and the complexities of the Neo-Nazi groups hierarchy, coupled with a extremely tense build to the gory chaos. The disaster the bands been thrown into feels frighteningly realistic, especially because of the growing real world anxiety of the violent alt-right. I definitely would fear running into a skinhead in the wrong part of town, let alone an entire sect.
The skinheads in the are not portrayed as mustache twirling goons or as mindless killers. This aint that type of movie.
Rather, they’re shown as cold and calculated foot soldiers, who would do anything for “the cause”. This includes faking a stabbing between two willing members to throw off the police and using rabid dogs to hunt our poor musicians. This is in contrast to the band pretty much making most of their decisions pretty much on the fly. Its a war between two ideologies: Living in the moment vs unwavering military-like discipline.
While the whole cast is great in their own right, the two brightest stars are the late Anton Yelchin as the band leader Pat, and Patrick Stewart as Darcy. These two completely throw themselves into their roles and elevate the movie to classic status. Pats transformation from naive band leader to frenzied survivor is great to watch, and a certain brutal scene involving a door, and some sharp knives will have you cringing. The wit and vulnerability he brings to his character is something you don’t see a lot in horror movies, and its a tragedy that an talent like Yelchin passed so young.
Last but certainly not least we have Darcy, the skinhead leader. As soon as Patrick Stewart casually dropped the n-word, I knew I was in for a treat. Whats terrifying about Darcy is how calm and methodical he is while coordinating atrocities. He speaks calmly and intelligently. Even when talking to the band through the Green Room door, he speaks in warm tones, barely ever raising his voice. This is man who values loyalty, discipline, and most importantly, control. He orders around his men and orchestrates plans with almost navy seal like precision, its like the darkest timeline version of Jean luc Picard. My only gripe is that this is the only character I truly wished we got some background on, to see just how this man fell so far into the Neo-Nazi underworld.
Its pretty safe to say that I love Green Room and Director Jeremy Saulnier is slowing becoming one of my favorite new directors. He is master of playing with audience expectations and is always looking for a way to subvert expectations. If you want a great thriller that doesn’t waste your time, Green Room is where its at.
9 out of 10
Green Room was written and directed by Jeremy Saulnier
Streaming On: Netflix