Sunday, September 25, 2016

Film Review: Green Room (2015)

Copyright: A24
When Jeremy Saulnier made Blue Ruin he showed that he has the chops to make specific and very driven visions which are both familiar and deeply authentic. In Green Room, Saulnier got a chance to try and catch that AAA production wave and make a horror thriller with a great cast and a very original (yet easily relatable) setup.

Immediately, it’s clear that he successfully resisted all the temptations that mostly boil down to dumbing down of his vision. In the process, he didn’t quite make a perfect masterpiece which Blue Ruin (almost) is but still showed that he’s a force for the future of a type that is sorely needed. Often labeled in other reviews and media in general as punks vs. neo-Nazis, Green Room basically is this – after they book a gig at the wrong club in the woods and there open a wrong door, a DIY punk band ends up being under siege by a gang of murdering white supremacists.

Afraid and confused, the band members try as best as they can to stay alive and find a way out of the hell they’re in. Headed by Anton Yelchin, the acting cast is effective on both sides of the Nazi-punk divide. Aside from the tragically lost Yelchin, Joe Cole of the Peaky Blinders looks and feels good on the big screen, as does Alia Shawkat, while the Nazis have Macon Blair and none other than the legendary Patrick Stewart (which sadly didn't do anything overly interesting with his big poppa Nazi character). As the plot develops into a new version of Assault on Precinct 13, the action becomes gory and ultra-violent in a flash of an eye.

Here, like in Blue Ruin, the director demonstrates the ability to shock in a very casual manner, a thing he shares with Denis Villeneuve, another great director who used this idea recently in Sicario. But, Green Room has the advantages of being less about firearms and more about blunt or sharp instruments. Like the clash of these two very different mindsets, the physical representation of their conflict is very raw and visceral.

Of course, none of this makes the film perfect. At moments, it meanders heavily, especially in the second half, where its killer pacing gets a bit toned down. This is mainly seen in the Nazi side of the story, where there’s a lot of talking and planning and people management, but the end purpose is not overly clear. The same is true for the “mystery” of the initial killing which is completely uninteresting when it is compared to the main plot of the band’s survival. I guess this side plot looked better in the script.

But, regardless of this pacing slowdown, Green Room is a very fresh and engaging film. It works as a novel horror and a psychological thriller equally well, but even more importantly, now that Saulnier got his AAA production experience, who knows what gems we might expect from him in the future.