“Things have gone south,” says a calm and clinical Patrick Stewart.
He is speaking to a young punk band on the opposite side of the door, trapped by uncertainty, though they are pretty certain Stewart’s Darcy and his friends are waiting for a chance to kill them.
Green Room sees The Ain’t Rights directed by a journalist punk towards a small, but paying, show deep in a wood. He gives them a heads up that it is a skinhead hangout, either far-right or ultra-left depending on who you ask.
Sure enough, they arrive, walk into the green room, and swastikas adorn the walls along with other Nazi symbols. It isn’t their political beliefs (undisclosed, but not fascism) nor their decision to cover “Nazi Punks F*ck Off” that land them in trouble. Rather, it is when, instructed not to go back into the green room, one band member has forgotten their phone and stumbles in on a murder scene – a woman lays on the ground with a knife lodged in her head.
The Ain’t Rights want nothing to do with the situation. But now there are witnesses, and the Nazis look after their own.
An undeniably awesome ride
From there on out, Green Room is a war movie. Each tactical move could be a step closer to freedom or a fatal mistake.
The band have a fighting spirit inherent in their genre, but they are up against a well-oiled operation. When Darcy (Patrick Stewart) is able to call people who deal with this sort of thing, you know this isn’t their first time trying to get rid of people.
It would seem erroneous to label a film with such a high level of threat as fun, but it is hard to feel otherwise after the credits role. The journey to that point is anything but – this is a bloody, violent, claustrophobic, and realistically intimate story.
There are no long chase scenes down picturesque hallways, and no hiding with baited breath from a useless villain. This is street-violence with razor blades and pit bulls; there is no deus ex machina to save the young musicians from their violent tormenters.
And yet, led by Anton Yelchin’s Pat, the punk genre’s fighting spirit permeates the film and, along with the characters, you never want to believe there is no chance left.
There is always a fight against oppression, whether that is very literal in their situation, or symbolic in the musicians fighting against fascism. At times it’s desperate, but by the time you’re out the other side, it’s an undeniably awesome ride.
Director Jeremy Saulnier’s previous film, Blue Ruin (2013), was a low-key and grounded story of a man looking for revenge. He had no special set of skills, but had the drive to set right what he believed was made wrong.
Green Room is similar. Our protagonists are like you and me, and are ill-prepared for these terrifying events, but their human instincts kick in.
Like Blue Ruin, it feels small in scale, thanks to almost exclusively sticking to one location, and a quick familiarisation with who we’re rooting for and who is a threat.
Imogen Poots’s Amber denies being a Nazi and was friends with the murder victim – she is an exciting presence, since neither the Nazis nor the punks really know what she is going to do next.
Yelchin’s Pat goes from a powerful punk band member to a humbled humanised captor, suddenly thrown into very real danger.
Patrick Stewart as the calm leader of the skinheads is a little at odds with their imagery (except his lack of hair), but his calm demeanor makes him all the more menacing.
Nerve wracking, but fun
Green Room is a nerve wracking, violent, but also fun thriller.
It is rare to hear an audience make both audible sounds of disgust one moment and then follow that with “f*ck yeah!” cheers of encouragement, but the film places you in the heart of the situation and you feel like you are fighting alongside The Ain’t Rights.
One of 2016’s best so far.
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