Green Room is Gory Punk-Metal-Fueled Adrenaline Rush

Anton Yelchin and Patrick Stewart star in Green Room, a no-escape thriller about a punk rock band trapped at a Neo-Nazi criminal headquarters-slash-metal bar in the depraved backwoods of Oregon. It opens Friday at select area theaters, and it’s the cinema event of 2016 so far.

Directed by Jeremy Saulnier, the commercial cinematographer turned auteur who wowed the festival circuit in 2014 with his indie revenge pic Blue Ruin, Green Room is an extravagantly violent, high-velocity edge-of-your-seater that enjoys the rare distinction of being like nothing you’ve ever seen.

The cerebral, soft-spoken Pat (Yelchin) and his merry band of disaffected punk-rockers, The Aint Rights (Alia Shawkat, Peaky Blinders’ Joe Cole, Callum Turner) are hard-up for money as they “tour” the American Northwest. After a depressing matinee show at a Mexican restaurant — the band’s cut: $24, plus rice and beans — The Aint Rights agree to take a detour for a last-ditch gig at a mysterious industrial bar in the middle of nowhere. A foreboding atmosphere is established instantly: The Aint Rights are encouraged to play their early, harder stuff, and advised not to “talk politics” with the crowd.

Sound advice, it turns out, because the crowd’s an army of drug-slinging skinhead minions who revere white supremacist symbology and wear red laces to signal their allegiance to their boss and kingpin, Darcy (Patrick Stewart). During the load out after a tense performance, Pat returns to the green room — Green Room! — to retrieve a forgotten cell phone, and there witnesses the immediate aftermath of a murder.

The band is corralled into the green room and told to shut up and stay calm while the skinheads debate their next move — they’ve got to get rid of the witnesses — but the band mates, with the help of reformed skinhead mistress Amber (Imogen Poots), get wise to their predicament They must escape or die. Thus follows an array of tactical hostilities and detentes. Machetes, fight dogs, shotguns and fire extinguishers are involved in messy, omnipresent ways.

But the violence is not what'd you'd call gratuitous. One of the most interesting elements in the script is Saulnier's generosity with the thugs. Many of them are confused about their membership and conflicted about the costs. In fact, a potential defection catalyzed the evening's violence.

As dawn approaches, the bar’s secret (though primary) purpose is revealed: it’s also a factory for the concoction and distribution of hard drugs. Darcy and his chief of staff Gabe (Saulnier collaborator and childhood friend Macon Blair) realize that stakes are high and time is of the essence.

Green Room is thus steroidally pumped with urgency, dramatized not only by the exceptional performances of the young cast, but also by a pulsating custom-synth score and Saulnier’s complete visual vision: the bar and its surroundings are like some condemned paintball course — except it’s not paint on these warring factions’ t-shirts; it’s generally chunks of flesh.

Twin Peaks meets Devil’s Rejects. Out of the Furnace meets The Purge. Room meets The Big Green.   

About The Author

Sam Allard

Sam Allard is the Senior Writer at Scene, in which capacity he covers politics and power and writes about movies when time permits. He's a graduate of the Medill School of Journalism at Northwestern University and the NEOMFA at Cleveland State. Prior to joining Scene, he was encamped in Sarajevo, Bosnia, on an...
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