Green Room might just be the most violent thriller ever made
The Ain’t Rights, a shabby hardcore punk band including nervous bass player Pat (Anton Yelchin) and feisty guitarist Sam (Alia Shawkat from Arrested Development), travel miles in a beat up van, siphoning gas and crashing on floors. Invited to play a matinee show, the band discover the gnarly venue is run by neo-Nazis. Being punk rockers, they kick off their set with a cover of the Dead Kennedys classic ‘Nazi Punks Fuck Off’. Getting the hell out of dodge, the band stop off at the titular room when they come across Amber (Imogen Poots), two skinheads, and a bloody corpse. Things only get worse when bouncer Gabe (Macon Blair) enlists the help of club leader Darcy (Patrick Stewart) in cleaning up, leading to a brutal fight for survival.
Those of a nervous disposition should stay away; Green Room is one of the most extraordinarily violent films ever created. Director Jeremy Saulnier first broke through with the terrific revenge ‘anti-thriller’ Blue Ruin, starring a disturbed and scared vagrant who barely stopped shaking long enough to hold his weapon. Green Room continues this theme with a band completely out of their depth trying to take on well-prepared Nazis armed with machetes, box cutters, and vicious attack dogs. Don’t expect a Home Alone-style ‘underdogs defeat the bad guys’ tale; the fight gets messy. Saulnier loves putting characters in tough situations and making them do anything possible to escape. It’s no spoiler to say the most heroic characters in Green Room end up dying as unheroically as the rest.
It’s easy to take screen violence for granted, but Jeremy Saulnier refuses to let that happen, crafting one of the most realistically gory films ever made. Every wound is felt, every death is chaotic, and every character feels real pain. Green Room avoids being torture porn through Saulnier’s sharp script, making it a horribly effective thriller. After a slow opening in which we hang out with the band and grow fond of them, Green Room instantly amps up to 11, the tension and violence not letting up until the final, wryly amusing punchline.
While the villains are mostly generic skinheads and the band don’t have huge amounts of personalities between them, there are some great performances. Macon Blair, so outstanding in Blue Ruin, is great as the put-upon bouncer trying to stop things getting out of hand, while Imogen Poots sheds her ‘love interest’ image as a true badass who looks capable wielding a shotgun. Spending most of the film yelping in pain or fuzzily recalling his favourite band, Anton Yelchin is the heart of the film as he desperately tries to avoid violence right up until he’s forced to carry the machete. As the film’s major selling point, Patrick Stewart is chilling as Nazi leader Darcy. It’s surreal hearing his grandfatherly inflections being used to spit out racist slurs and threats, but it’s a terrific performance that proves he can still surprise audiences.
With stomach-churning gore and breath-taking intensity, some people won’t be able to cope with Green Room, but those with a strong stomach should seek it out. Clever writing, strong acting, and huge amounts of style elevate what could have been a generic B movie into a must-see thriller. Jeremy Saulnier showed his talent with Blue Ruin, and he’s done it again with Green Room, a punk rock nightmare so raw and unpredictable, it has to be seen to be believed.
By Harry J. Ford
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