Sunday, May 15, 2016

'Green Room' review

Green Room is vicious. I can't think of any other word that describes this movie better than that. From start to finish, Jeremy Saulnier's horror thriller is gruesome, grisly, and a hell of a good time. If you can stomach the violence, you're in for a treat. Staged as a battle royale between Neo-Nazis and punk rockers, Green Room is one of the most shockingly entertaining films of the year so far. Appalling in its treatment of horrendous violence and electrifying in its constant suspense, this is a movie that will push you beyond your limits and then some. It's pulpy, it's nasty, and it's gory enough to make you cringe. But you won't look away. Created masterfully by Saulnier, Green Room is a movie that fits together almost perfectly, facilitating an atmosphere of dread before pummeling you with another act of hideous carnage. And frankly, it's the kind of film that we don't see enough of anymore. As visceral film experiences go, Green Room is up near the top of the list.

The Ain't Rights are out of luck. The punk band, comprised of Pat (Anton Yelchin), Reece (Joe Cole), Sam (Alia Shawkat), and Tiger (Callum Turner), is almost completely broke, living in their van and siphoning gas out of cars. They take a couple of lackluster gigs and do an interview with college journalist Tad (David W. Thompson), but they need something more. To wrap up their tour and make their way back home, The Ain't Rights will need one final performance. With the help of Tad, the band signs up to perform at a Neo-Nazi club run by some very strange white supremacists. It's an unfriendly arena, but it pays a nice fee. Even though they piss off the customers at times, it's a successful show and The Ain't Rights walk away with what they wanted.

But it turns out that they might end getting a little more than they bargained for. After the show, Pat walks into the green room and finds a dead body. Yup, this is no longer just a slightly sketchy racist bar- this is a crime scene. The leaders of the club (Macon Blair, Eric Edelstein) try to keep the band contained in order to control the situation, but things go south rather quickly. After a few nasty and tense standoffs, the club's menacing manager, Darcy (Patrick Stewart), is called in to take care of the band. With only a few makeshift weapons, The Ain't Rights will have to fight their way out of the club, facing down a terrifying army of Darcy's most fearsome men. It's safe to say that it won't end well.

Coming in at 95 minutes, Green Room is an incredibly economical film. This is a movie that is exceptionally quick and frighteningly efficient. But that doesn't diminish its impact one bit. Green Room is one of those movies that feels like a punch in the face. From the first burst of shocking violence that pops vividly onto the screen, this movie will have you in its grasp and it will never let you go. It's a film of great passion and violence, dominated by actors who maintain that level of steely intensity for the entire runtime. It's a roller-coaster ride that will have your head spinning, thrusting you back against your seat. And it might just make you grip the armrests a little bit tighter. Green Room is unpredictable, uncontrollable, and just utterly insane.

But Green Room isn't a great film because of its unpredictability or because of the disturbing impact of the violence. No, this is a phenomenal film because it's coming from a director who has a superb control of tension and mood, a director who is extremely comfortable in this genre. I haven't seen Jeremy Saulnier's Blue Ruin, but after seeing this film, it's definitely on my must-watch list. Saulnier is a very precise filmmaker, and every scene in Green Room conveys a mood and evokes a specific feeling or emotion. You feel the desperation of the band at the beginning of the film. You see the panic as things go south at the club. You shake as these unprepared kids go up against a full-blown army. It takes a special filmmaker to create that consistent level of intimacy, and the hard-hitting authenticity of Saulnier's vision is on full display throughout Green Room.

Green Room is firmly based in a graphic reality that is often difficult to stomach, yet at the same time, it's an incredibly flashy and unhinged grindhouse film. Saulnier is terrific at inducing a mood of anxiety and vigor, but he also excels at blending beautifully strange genre elements with his exceptional filmmaking craft. I think it's safe that say that I've never seen a film quite like Green Room before. Sure, there have been plenty of other siege thrillers and backwoods horror movies, but nothing that quite strikes this specific tone. Mixing the thrills of an absorbing action flick with the gory sensibilities of a horror film and the setting of a chamber piece, Green Room is a gritty, colorful, and utterly riveting genre clash.

Saulnier's vision is elevated by a phenomenal cast of actors who fit their roles perfectly. This is even more impressive considering that we know so very little about each of the characters, as Saulnier gives a limited amount of background info in regards to the personalities of the actors. The lack of exposition gives the cast free reign to explore these characters and create their own distinct flavor, which works wonders. If there's a lead in the film, it's Anton Yelchin, who plays the reluctant head of the band. Yelchin conveys Pat's absolute terror at every turn, but as the movie goes on, there's an assertive anger that turns him into one of the movie's most dynamic characters. The rest of the band is rounded out with strong performances from Joe Cole, Alia Shawkat, and Callum Turner. Their arcs are slightly more limited, but they all have great chemistry, which works wonders for the film.

On the Nazi side of things, Patrick Stewart is the obvious standout performance. His turn in Green Room was the big marketing pitch for this movie, and thankfully, the iconic British actor doesn't disappoint. Stewart's Darcy might not quite be the villain that you're expecting- he never kills anyone on screen or commits any horrendous acts of violence. Instead, Darcy hangs in the shadows. He manipulates and executes, commanding his troops around like a general. His calm demeanor and laser focus is chilling, and that's what makes it work. Another standout among the ranks of Darcy's men is Gabe, played by Macon Blair, who previously starred in Blue Ruin. Blair was unknown to me before this movie, but it was his performance that stuck. There's so much haunting conflict in his eyes, and his character becomes one of the most compelling in the film.

Finally, Green Room is just a fantastic-looking and sounding movie. As blood-soaked as it is, this flick is just an astonishingly beautiful audio/visual experience. Sean Porter's cinematography is so splashy and rich, contrasting the abrasive tone with a strong sense of visual energy. Porter accurately nails down the desolation of the venue, the grungy, sticky grime that pulsates through the walls. By the end of Green Room, I felt like I had just spent 95 minutes in that distinct, striking location. That's a feat that very few films pull off. The sound design in this movie is also astounding, mixing a constantly vibrating punk music vibe with the creeping sense of dread that permeates through every frame. This film is simply a vision.

2016 is already growing into one of the most impressive years for genre pictures in recent memory, and Green Room is another rollicking masterpiece to add to the growing list. It won't be for all tastes, but film fans will be appreciating this depraved, diabolically entertaining piece of cinema for ages. I walked out of Green Room with the feeling that I just been punched in the gut and smashed over the head with a sledgehammer of brutal, bloody force. I stumbled out of the theater in a complete daze. In less metaphorical terms, I felt energized by Saulnier's captivating vision of horror. It's an awe-inspiring ride that is simply unforgettable.

THE FINAL GRADE:  A                                              (9.2/10)

Image Credits: Deadline, Rolling Stone, Indiewire, Guardian, Joblo

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