I bet I can pique your interest on the brutal new indie thriller Green Room in just under one paragraph.
“A hard-rockin’, tough-talkin’ punk rock band finds itself under attack from a small army of white supremacist bastards after they witness a horrific crime. Third feature from the team behind Murder Party (2007) and Blue Ruin (2013), Green Room stars Anton Yelchin, Imogen Poots, and Alia Shawkat as some of the punky protagonists, as well as Macon Blair, Mark Webber, and Patrick Stewart as some of more tenacious villains. Yes, Patrick Stewart as the head of a bloodthirsty white supremacist sect. You read that right.”
And now I bet you’re curious about Green Room.
It’s not just the novel plot hook, the grim setting, and the fantastic cast that makes Green Room stand out among the endless array of grindhouse throwback efforts; it’s also that the film is remarkably well-written, almost painfully suspenseful, and grimly, gruesomely amusing at the strangest of moments. While most nostalgic filmmakers revisit, remake, and emulate their favorite b-movies, it seems like writer/director Jeremy Saulnier is bringing a bit more originality to the party. Green Room does manage to evoke the tone and attitude of certain John Carpenter/John Milius/Sam Peckinpah/Walter Hill siege stories, it also tackles some potentially familiar trappings with a welcome sense of novelty. In other words: I bet you’ve never seen an action film in which a punk rock band battles to the death with a squad of horrific skinheads.
Saulnier and his cast do a great job of setting up both sides of the conflict — the kids in the band are sneaky little bastards, but certainly quick-witted and clever enough to earn some points with the viewer; the guys who run the bar are casually brutal yet surprisingly intelligent sociopaths; and then one mindless mistake kick-starts an evening full of tricks, traps, murder, and mayhem. And while Green Room delivers a slick set-up and some sly character development, things get a whole lot more interesting once all hell breaks loose.
Set to a head-pounding collection of hardcore punk tracks — in addition to a superlative score by Brooke and Will Blair — Green Room feels like a low-budget grindhouse flick from 1981 that was somehow directed by a world-class director. It’s an exploitation flick, to be sure, but it’s an exploitation flick with an impressive array of talent on both sides of the camera. Perhaps best of all, Green Room delivers a pair of warring factions we simply haven’t seen in other films. “Punk rockers vs. white supremacists” pretty much sells itself, premise-wise.
Green Room is consistently shocking, smartly performed, bleakly amusing, and (once we get past the first act) almost mercilessly suspenseful. The flick simply refuses to slow down as the desperate young musicians struggle through a series of failed escape attempts, and the result is a handful of deliciously harrowing sequences in which various combatants are dispatched in highly gruesome fashion. Don’t be surprised if you feel like you need a nap after watching this one.
So while Green Room might not be as “deep” as the director’s previous film, it’s safe to say that “depth” is not what Mr. Saulnier is going for here. It’s a dark and exhausting piece of escapism with an inordinately intelligent screenplay, a very solid cast, and a Patrick Stewart performance you simply must see to believe. Green Room is a meticulously morbid and deviously entertaining piece of low-budget/high-quality action filmmaking — and it makes me even more excited to see what this crew cooks up for their next film.
4.5 punk rock burritos out of 5