There’s a moment in Green Room where our bloody-minded punk-rocker protagonists face their ultimate fear: the opportunity to follow-up their ideology with action.The moment is when they’re locked behind a door, the other side of which awaits a veritable army of skinheads ready to rip them limb from limb. But let’s hit pause right there, and rewind a couple years: Jeremy Saulnier’s Blue Ruin was a refreshing jolt of electricity into the arm of the thriller, entombing realistic characters in a genre-spun web of revenge. The same ingredients are again diced into the makeup of Green Room, a movie that lives and dies by its story’s taut adherence to formula and its characters’ devotion to avoiding it; it’s a vital duality that makes Saulnier’s newest a more than worthy addition to the top shelf of B-movie excellence like its predecessor.
Allow us to introduce the Aint Rights: Pat (Anton Yelchin) on bass, Sam (Alia Shawcat) on lead guitar, Tiger (Callum Turner) on vocals, and Reece (Joe Cole) on the drums. The first few scenes of Green Room do a stunning job of setting up their clashing personalities and grubby lifestyles – informed by dogged mindsets – so much so that we’re not sure whether to root for them or hate them. Our empathies are soon aligned, however, when they book a desperate last-minute gig at the headquarters of a white supremacist group. Having the gall to open their set with Dead Kennedy’s acerbic ‘Nazi Punks F*ck Off’ is both a mini fist-bump for us, and almost a death wish for the band. But it’s when they witness the aftermath of a cold-blooded murder that they find themselves in hot water; locked in a horrible room, with crazy racists surrounding them, they must do their best to reason their way out – and if that fails, fight their way out.
Much of the marketing hyping the movie has focused on Patrick Stewart’s heel-turn performance as the aryan-loving ringleader, and although it’s a gleeful showcase for his icy, calculated stares and a massive hook for even casual movie fans, he acts more as the head of the totem pole, the smiling mask on top of the tomahawk-baring lower sections who do his more base work for him. In other words, he’s very much part of an ensemble. Among those nefarious tentacles is Macon Blair, the breakout of Blue Ruin, who somehow successfully conveys evildoing from the viewpoint of an everyman, while the Aint Rights do a stellar job at playing frightened adolescents trying to grasp onto their adult philosophies. But aside from the delightful beads of sweat on the cast’s temples, Saulnier is the star of the show: a master of throwing his films down unsuspected paths, his latest boasts tone-bending moments which feel like someone just cut the elevator cord, and everybody is plummeting toward the basement, screaming.
Through a maze of tricks, twists, turns, murder, deceit, and punk rock, Green Room delivers the gasping thrills and blood-red spills that was only hinted at in Blue Ruin, and aligns itself more with the likes of low-budget exploitation movies. While the initial buzz of its visceral hammer-swing does eventually fade, the pointy end remains wedged in the brain: there’s a profound message streaked through the grisly heart of this frequently brilliant, always thrilling exercise in rapidly shifting moods and queasy gore, encapsulated in the adorable trot of a dog unburdened from its master. Regardless, best keep a leash on this one.
Green Room is out now in the US, and is released May 13 in the UK.