mon 27/01/2020

Green Room | reviews, news & interviews

Green Room

Green Room

Nazis vs Punks in a breakthrough thriller short on dread

Darcy (Patrick Stewart) takes command

Adding the Dead Kennedys’ “Nazi Punks Fuck Off” to their set-list when they find themselves playing an Oregon roadhouse filled with neo-Nazis isn’t where The Ain’t Rights’ trouble starts. It’s when this hardcore, hard-up punk band stumble on a woman’s murder by a fellow neo-Nazi afterwards, then get bundled and locked into their dressing-room with her knife-stuck corpse, that their nightmare begins.

It’s also when Green Room becomes less interesting than Jeremy Saulnier’s previous film, Blue Ruin, which was saturated in inexorable sadness and dread, with an unpredictable, steel-trap plot, and a mesmeric performance by Macon Blair as its improbably violent hero. Green Room is deliberately different work, looking to John Carpenter’s example in the likes of Assault On Precinct 13, where character, and film, is action.

The Ain’t Rights (pictured above) prove resourceful in their efforts to escape the grubby “green room” which, they gradually accept, is intended as a killing floor by the men waiting just outside - resourceful, but mostly wrong, with swiftly disastrous consequences meted out by pit-bull attack dogs launched at their throats. Only the dead woman’s friend Amber (Imogen Poots, pictured below left), the Nazi insider with eyes that have seen it all, knows what they’re up against. The level of violence – a torso slit open with a box-cutter, an arm carved to pieces – and its often immediate fatality keeps the action-narrative nervously off-kilter. Little goes by the Hollywood book.

Macon Blair is back as this film’s most fascinating character, a sad-eyed, somehow reluctant neo-Nazi noncom. He takes orders from Patrick Stewart’s gimlet-eyed Darcy, a thoroughbred bastard and unquestioned king of this backwoods brotherhood (and, Saulnier makes clear, a drug-dealing, ruthless hypocrite). The sense of wet, wooded place in this forgotten, white American working-class outpost, where such leaders bloom, is an extra character here. Though racist killers, Darcy’s men are fitting in with their environment’s options.

Where Blue Ruin announced Saulnier, Green Room is his career breakthrough. He most resembles Britain’s Ben Wheatley in his refreshing of the horror and thriller genres with extreme, morally weighty violence, humour without winking irony, and a new generation’s digestion and evolution of past Seventies masters. Green Room is certainly a stylish, intelligent thrill-ride of slow-burns and racing danger. It only disappoints if you saw Blue Ruin, and know Saulnier’s full range. The dread leaks out once the rollercoaster battle between punks and Nazis begins, replaced by mere tension. Individual characters hold up on both sides, but become less important than the outcome of the next violent act. It’s a drive-in movie for a digital age, a less secretly artistic version of the sort of thing Jonathan Demme was making for Roger Corman in 1974 or, again, John Carpenter’s slasher flicks and existential thrillers.

Unless the sight of fictional, deep wounds upsets you, ignore the dubious reports of fainting in cinemas. Green Room is less hardcore than The Ain’t Rights, and a lot of fun. Saulnier can do much more, and maybe next time he will. 

Overleaf: watch the trailer for Green Room

The level of violence – a torso slit open with a box-cutter, an arm carved to pieces – keeps the action-narrative nervously off-kilter


Editor Rating: 
Average: 4 (1 vote)

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