I had an opportunity to see an advanced screening of Green Room from Blue Ruin director, Jeremy Saulnier, last night. So, obviously, I went. (obvious because you saw the title of this review. and because what else am i going to do on a thursday night?) Blue Ruin was great. It was a tense revenge thriller will stellar performances (and some stabbing). Saulnier’s first feature, Murder Party, was also pretty good (and stabby). It gave viewers a glimpse into his singular artistic vision while killing off assholes in comical ways. Tonally, the former is way lighter than the latter. And Green Room pushes even darker than Blue Ruin. (if you’ve seen Blue Ruin, you may be calling bullshit right now. trust me on this one though)
The Ain’t Rights are a not-quite-successful punk band on the road. (they can’t even afford gas, so they steal it) When a gig falls through and the consolation gig the local promoter/mohawk enthusiast sets them up with only nets them a little over $25, they are pissed. The mohawk offers them a matinee gig at a skinhead (the bad kind) club in the middle of nowhere where his cousin works (at least i think he works there). The Ain’t Rights show, play their set to much moshing (after a rocky start), and head out on their merry way. Oh wait – someone forgot their cell phone in the green room (that’s the title!). No problem, Pat will just pop in there and grab-HOLY SHIT! There’s a dead body and a bunch of people standing around! Now that they’re witnesses, the hateful sociopaths who work at/frequent the place need to figure out what to do with them. The boss (Patrick Stewart) is called in and things go VERY south for the band (and stabby).
The ‘action’ gets started so quickly in Green Room that it’s an absolute shock to the viewer. It’s unsettling to be thrust into the conflict so quickly. But Saulnier gets right into it after a quick introduction, a tiny bit of background and motivation, and some concise character development. And by character, I’m referring to the band. The band members have individual traits, but those are developed later. The viewer is won over in a short time (not difficult when our protagonists are pitted against neo-nazis i suppose) and then the shit hits the fan. It’s hard to imagine that the film can maintain the anxiety and horror it elicits so early for the remainder of the running time. But it does. And each scene is more intense than the last. Each step that either side takes in this deadly siege is more desperate than the previous one. Characters are developed beautifully through the film’s bloody crescendo to its bleak as hell finale. (pretty clever of me to use musical terms, huh?) From brutal offense to gory defense (sports! or maybe that’s a war reference. actually, war is more fitting), Green Room delivers the goods. And not just in story, pacing, and character development (holy shit, that’s plenty!), but in every other way as well. The actors turn in virtuoso (more music!) performances with Patrick Stewart playing against type, nailing the cult-leader-like head white power piece-of-shit who “red laces” are willing to kill or be stabbed for (i think Saulnier likes blades). The editing is suitably jarring when it needs to be with some perfectly timed abrupt cuts in both sound and picture. And the cinematography renders the dismal, smoky club beautiful in deep green and black hues. Simply put, the film is a masterpiece of horror cinema, deserving a place among the greats.
The Final Cut: Green Room is a relentless, brutal masterpiece of violent cinema. Saulnier’s gut-punch action is perfectly in synch with his nuanced characters and emotional depth. A rare accomplishment indeed.