Published on April 22nd, 2016 | by Ian M. Woodington0
After a fruitless tour, a punk group, The Ain’t Rights, find themselves out of money and stealing gas to get back home. When a recommendation from a fan looking for an interview leads them to play one more show out in the backwoods of Oregon to a crowd of white supremacists, they become witnesses to a murder and barricade themselves in the green room. With no clear escape, they enter into a deadly battle of wills with the owner of the club, and his band of skinheads, and quickly discover that they have no intention of letting them leave alive.
It’s to the point now where if the A24 logo is at the front of a flick, chances are I’m handing over my hard-earned cash. Enemy, Locke, A Most Violent Year, Ex Machina, Slow West – they’ve been distributing some of my favorite films from the last few years and are fast becoming a powerhouse for indie movies, not unlike Focus Features a little more than a decade ago. Unfortunately, this means I set my expectations a little too high on my way into Green Room, which was not hard to do when you combine A24’s track record with the emerging talent of writer/director Jeremy Saulnier. Blue Ruin, his second feature, was the surprise indie hit of 2013. Expertly crafted and deliberately paced, it harkened back to 70’s-style bleak and gritty filmmaking. Green Room also features some of the DNA that made Blue Ruin great, those quite moments of high-tension leading into heart-stopping explosions of extreme violence are present and accounted for, but a thinner plot and characters who are severely underdeveloped show that this story, to its detriment, was in much more of a rush to get where it was going than its predecessor was.
Green Room’s major selling point is of course, Patrick Stewart. Adding one part Cameron Alexander (Stacy Keach’s character from American History X) to one part Walter White/Heisenberg, his performance will undoubtedly go down as one of the greatest departures of our time. Having said that, and believe me when I say I’m loathe to fly in the face of what an exceptional casting choice this was, he is frustratingly underutilized. It does speak to what an unrivaled talent he is when he can build most of his menace from the other side of a locked door, but regardless of how solid the performance is, his presence is merely a set-piece. A role with this little screen time rivals Anthony Hopkins in The Silence of the Lambs (they both had what probably amounted to about 15 minutes of screen time, or less), but I’m certain Stewart’s won’t leave as lasting an impression. To be blunt, if you’re queuing up just for him, you may come away disappointed.
The flip side to this comes about through Imogen Poots as Amber, friend to the murder victim and unfortunate enough to get trapped backstage with the band. Much of the best dialogue, along with some incredible moments of jaw-dropping spontaneity, comes her way and it’s her deadpan delivery that steals the show. Though we are supposed to root for the band, it was her cynical “inside man” that drew me further into their nightmare situation and kept me hoping that she might be the one to survive and give the skinheads the brutal justice they deserved.
For now, I’m sticking to my guns and giving Green Room just half marks, but I look forward to a second viewing at home in a few months, where I’m certain my opinion of it will improve, due to my expectations being more aligned and the foreknowledge that this is simple and standard survival horror fare…that just happens to feature Picard as a neo-Nazi.
2 ½ out of 5
Second Review by Ryan Guerra
Green Room is the perfect example of how a simple “wrong place, wrong time” narrative can be well crafted into one of the best movies I have seen this year. A young band on a floundering tour takes a final show to make some money to get home. Only, they stumble into witnessing something they should not have seen that forces them to fight for survival against a vicious band of white supremacist.
The movie is grounded in reality which makes the brutality suspenseful enough to create a real terror of “what are they going to do now?” feeling. The movie never tries to take the gore too far or sell you something unbelievable. Instead it enhances its simple story by having fantastic pacing the not only moves the narrative, but creates a constant change in our terror for the young characters on film.
The young ensemble cast delivers a believable performance which causes us to root for this scrappy band. Their performance is led by Anton Yelchin (Star Trek) and Imogen Poots (That Awkward Moment) who provide us with the emotional conduit needed to enhance the terror. They are squared off against the white supremacist group lead by the cold and calculated Patrick Stewart (X-Men). When their paths cross for the first time, it becomes clear to everyone involved that the young band will have to fight to survive the night.
Ultimately this film is fast paced well-crafted narrative that will leave fans of suspense thrillers satisfied. Green Room is worth the price of admission but leave the little ones at home.
4 ½ stars out of 5