It’s Punks vs. Nazis in the Unrelenting Tension of ‘Green Room’

GameStop, Inc.

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As long as there’s been punk rock there’s been a sad, unfortunate plague that lies in the heart of the youthful rebellion against authority – fucking Nazis. Sure, the Sex Pistols didn’t advocate fascism, but there’s always the unfortunate imagery of Sid Vicious walking down the streets of Paris wearing a red shirt with a swastika emblazoned on the front. As punk expanded, there emerged a skinhead faction that embraced the neo-fascism, inspiring the great Dead Kennedys song “Nazi Punks Fuck Off.” That subculture of white supremacy within the punk rock movement serves as the inspiration for writer-director Jeremy Saulnier’s Green Room, a nightmarish thriller of unrelenting tension. Green Room is a movie that grabs you by the throat from the start and won’t let you go until its blood-soaked conclusion.

Touring in the Pacific Northwest, a punk band from Arlington, Virginia, the Ain’t Rights, are scrapping by playing a number of low paying gigs, sometimes having to siphon gas to make it to their next gig. The punk quartet features Pat (Anton Yelchin), Sam (Alia Shawkat), Reece (Joe Cole), and Tiger (Callum Turner). After a show of theirs got unexpectedly cancelled, the group is set up with a show at a secluded club in the woods of Oregon. They’re warned not to discuss politics with the people there as they’re white supremacist punks. From the second they walk into the dingy club with various white supremacist slogans adorning the walls, the members of the Ain’t Rights are tenuous and uncomfortable. When their set is complete and they’re preparing to leave, Pat walks back into the green room to retrieve Sam’s phone. Pat grabs the phone but notices the body of a young girl on the floor, knife protruding from her head. Gabe (Macon Blair), a worker at the club, secludes the band in the green room at gun point, locking the band in the room with Amber (Imogen Poots), a friend of the deceased girl, and Big Justin (Eric Edelstein), a towering and imposing figure around the club. It’s not long before the club’s owner Darcy (Patrick Stewart) arrives and organizes his young, impressionable soldiers of white supremacists to get the witnesses out of the green room, dead or alive.

Following 2013’s stellar Blue Ruin, Jeremy Saulnier further cements himself as one of the premiere young talents working in film today. Green Room doesn’t let up in its remarkable tension, which relies on both simplicity and escalation. The neo Nazis are bad, and the entrapped band members are good. There’s no needlessly long setup or backstory for any of these characters, just simply one night pulled from the darkest nightmares of touring bands nationwide. The situation is bad, then it gets worse and worse and worse. Saulnier doesn’t waste the audience’s time and energy with too many complexities when there terror of the situation at hand is more than enough.

Green Room is ostensibly a punk rock horror film with a strong streak of authenticity. When the Ain’t Rights take the stage at the doomed club, they play the aforementioned “Nazi Punks Fuck Off” as a big fuck you to the crowd of jackbooted thugs. But the film is also full of little details about the neo-Nazi skinhead movement (not all skinheads are Nazis, and the film does cover this fact), like the importance of the color of the laces with red signifying that someone has shed blood for the white power movement. The look and feel of these degenerate villains has unsettling bit of realism, which is only made worse when these bloodthirsty bastards take up arms against our heroes. Looking alike in their own branded uniform and carrying themselves with a bloodlust, these neo-Nazi bastards come across like zombies hoards clawing at a fortified door in Dawn of the Dead.

The violence of Green Room is plentiful, with numerous truly shocking and unsettling moments. It’s as if the only way the never-ending suspense of the film can even be slightly relieved is through the display of something so graphic that your immediate instinct is to turn away. None of which should be interpreted as a negative. All of these elements are working together to make Green Room one of the most intense movies of recent memory.

The entire cast of Green Room is working at the top of their game. Anton Yelchin, a very good actor who never hesitates taking chances, gives one of the best performances of his young career. Recently, Yelchin seems to have been buried in a number of mediocre films that failed in execution and that streak is put to a definitive stop here. Alia Shawkat makes a strong turn away from comedy as the only woman in the band, charged with keeping the band on the road and then fighting with for her own survival. Once again, Imogen Poots shows herself to be an actress on the rise in a performance that contains the only sense of ambiguity in this clear world of heroes and villains. But most of the attention will be given to Patrick Stewart’s Darcy, the menacing leader of this subset of supremacists. The former Captain Picard lends his dignified voice in the service of evil, an evil that is calculating and will keep you guessing as the horrors escalate. Probably the best performance in Green Room belongs to Macon Blair, who was the lead in Saulnier’s Blue Ruin. He’s a member of the neo-Nazi gang but has this tinge of apprehension, and Blair’s big-eyed stare accentuates that sense of a lost innocence.

Upon leaving the theater after Green Room, my muscles were tense and my shirt was soaked with sweat. Green Room is such an intense, visceral thriller that fully engulfs the viewer in its nightmare scenario. As good as the entire cast of the film is, the real star of Green Room is Jeremy Saulnier. His film is so assured in its construction and intent, achieving every single thing that it sets out to do. I sincerely doubt that I’ll encounter another thriller with such unrelenting intensity as Green Room this year, or even over the next five years. This is a fantastic film from start to finish that may very well rank among the best of 2016. Green Room is not for the squeamish, but those who can handle its gory intensity will find a stunning thriller that will be talked about for years to come.

  • Green Room
4.5

Summary

An astonishing exercise in unrelenting tension, Green Room grabs you by the throat and doesn’t let go until the last drop of blood has been spilled.

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