A punk rock band is forced to fight for survival after witnessing a murder at a neo-Nazi skinhead bar.
Director: Jeremy Saulnier
Starring: Anton Yelchin, Alia Shawkat, Imogen Poots, Patrick Stewart, Joe Cole, Macon Blair, Kai Lennox, Callum Turner
Rated: R (strong brutal graphic violence, gory images, language and some drug content)
By Matt Greene
Green room – a room where performers “relax” when not performing.
Growing up in rock bands through-and-past college, I’ve spent my fair-share of time in green rooms. In the pretense-filled world of underground music, this is often the one place musicians are their un-costumed selves. That vulnerability mixed with anticipation of the performance creates a tension. Green Room amps that tension to 11, replacing stage-fright with death-fright. A contained thriller so palpably desperate, I felt myself trying to break down the poster-plastered walls on screen.
In the film, a road-weary punk-rock foursome reluctantly take a gig at a white-supremacist venue in order to make enough money to get home, but things turn bad when they discover a murder on premises. And while it certainly gives us another reason to hate racists, there’s more to it than that. While a clear love for the hardcore punk scene is on display here, Saulnier is issuing a warning about groupthink of all kinds. Whether music, religion, trends, scenes, or any other community, we must never let our longing for belonging hinder our humanity.
When things go wrong, they go very wrong, with some hard-to-stomach violence that works both narratively and morally, even as you cringe. Like writer/director Saulnier’s great Blue Ruin, it uses human flaws in place of genre clichés to amplify its message. Each time we think a character is going to do the dumb thing characters always do in horror-thrillers, it deftly defies that platitude. So while Green Room is, at times, a supremely difficult film, it’s largely an engaging and completely rewarding backwoods blood-fest that made me thankful for only the minor jitters I get backstage.
4.5 out of 5 Stars
By Cole Schneider
Writer/director Jeremy Saulnier’s sophomore film “Green Room” (after the essentially perfect mystery/thriller “Blue Ruin”) is absolutely terrific, but not necessarily a must-see. The top of any “GR” review should note that the same visceral intensity and fear-induction that makes it great is also what makes it so difficult to recommend. I put “GR” in the same class as other great films that are cruel pills to swallow like Michael Haneke’s “The Piano Teacher” or Steve McQueen’s “Shame”. If you can’t handle the brutality of the film, its message isn’t going to alter your worldview anyway; however, if you’re a fan of genre films or have a strong stomach, “GR” will be sadistically delightful.
In “GR”, we follow a hardcore punk band that has to play a show in a backwoods town full of white supremacist skinheads led by Patrick Stewart. Naturally, something goes wrong and they become implicated in a scheme much larger than a rock show. There are allegorical elements to the story—you can probably already sense the fear and xenophobia of Donald Trump hovering over the film—and commentary is made not only on fear as something to avoid or transcend, but more radically as something to recognize and even empathize with. In the world of “GR”, people must belong; all of life is community. Characters belong to bands, ideologies, social constructs, and hate groups. Whichever group you belong to, it is required for you to also adopt all views associated with the group. Punk rockers can’t like Britney Spears. Skinheads can’t like liberals. Even dogs must belong to an owner. In a cliché-twisting stunt, it’s a dog that offers the film’s most poignant, emotional recoil.
4 out of 5 stars