What’s worse sitting in? The green room? Or, the waiting room?
The Ain’t Rights are a punk band trying to make it big on their own. By showing up at and playing random bowling alleys, coffee shops, and basements across the country, they’re able to make a living and still be happy with what they do, even if it seems like they’re living off of any scraps they can find. But finally, they feel as if their big break has finally come with Oregon, where they have a pretty solid gig booked through a local college station. Problem is, it doesn’t quite work out and the guy who is seemingly responsible for it getting screwed up, wants to make amends by getting them a gig somewhere out in the deep, dark woods, where they’ll be playing for a whole slew of Nazi skinheads. While the band is initially against this idea, they realize that they need the money and could probably work well in the venue. However, once they get there, everything that they expect to go wrong, goes wrong and now, they’re stuck in a situation that none of them know how to get out of alive, or without losing some sort of body-part in the process.
Writer/director Jeremy Saulnier’s debut (Blue Ruin), wasn’t the greatest movie ever made, but seemed to do so much, with so little, that it left me surprised and excited. It took what was supposed to be a very conventional revenge story, gave it a greater sense of mystery, suspense, tension, and emotion that doesn’t seem to come with those kinds of stories anymore, and it had me absolutely on-edge for what the guy had to bring next. After all, he can do small wonders with a tired-formula like the “revenge-thriller”, what’s not to say that he can’t do it for every genre, right?
Well, I was absolutely right to get excited because Green Room isn’t at all what I expected it to be, and I loved it for that.
To be honest, Green Room isn’t nearly as deep or as meaningful as Blue Ruin may have been; there aren’t any moments of bare, human-drama, nor is there any actual insight into the human-condition, other than just what happens when you give scared people weapons to play with. But honestly, that’s fine; Green Room is most definitely its own kind of beast that doesn’t need a lot of character development, or heartfelt themes about life and love to get by. What it needs to do is keep its audience excited, tense, and frightened as to what’s going to happen next to all of these characters next.
And yes, that’s exactly what ends up happening. But while I may definitely may make the movie seem like just an action-thriller, without hardly anything brewing underneath the surface, don’t worry, there’s something more to scratch at. Sure, you may have to really dig your fingernails in, but eventually, you’ll find something worth holding on to that makes all of the blood, guts, gore and overzealous violence not seem like a waste of time, money and blood squibs.
After all, it seems like Saulnier knows that he’s dealing with some crazy, over-the-top material and doesn’t try to hold back from that one bit. In all honesty, when the plot gets going and heavy, it’s as bone-chilling and as suspenseful as any thriller/horror flick I’ve seen in quite some time and it never seems to go exactly where you think it is. Saulnier creates this terrifying air that anything bad can, and most likely will, happen here – it’s just a matter of when, where and to whom that makes this movie even more rough.
But trust me, in this case, “rough” is a good thing.
Saulnier may have a lot of violence here, but really, he isn’t using it because that’s all he’s got, or that’s all he wants to say; the violence is as in-your-face, shocking and realistic as you’d believe it, that it almost makes this story harder-to-watch. We don’t get much character-development here for everyone, but for the few that we do, the idea that they could literally be killed-off at any second, makes Green Room all the more of an antsy picture. In a way, you get the sense that Saulnier is tormenting us, while simultaneously, having the time of his life behind the camera, but it seems a lot less manipulative than I make it sound.
What Green Room is, essentially, is a grimy, dirty, disgusting and trashy grindhouse flick that doesn’t try to be anything else but that. Sure, there’s an opportunity here for Saulnier to make a point about race and the divide it creates in this country, but that’s for a much different movie, and not here. What Saulnier really wants to do is give the audience all of the violence in the world, while also reminding us that even if we do like what we see and are getting something of a kick out of it, that there are human lives at-stake here.
Sounds really depressing and serious, but somehow, it works so perfectly.
Oh and yes, the cast is pretty great, too, even if there are some odd, almost questionable decisions made. Everyone in the band is fine and even though none of them are really given much more depth than just “scared kids who think they’re a lot tougher and angrier than they actually are”, it’s still easy to feel something for them in this crappy situation and almost want for them to all make it out alive by the end. You know it’s not really possible, but still, there’s a feeling that’s way too hard to deny. And yes, while Anton Yelchin and Alia Shawkat are fine fits, oddly enough, it’s people like Imogen Poots and Patrick Stewart who, honestly, don’t really fit too perfectly into this story.
Don’t get me wrong, both are pretty good, but Stewart seems like he can’t decided on whether or not he wants to do an American accent, or stick with his British one, as well as the same for Poots. Maybe this is more of a nitpick than anything, but it was a tad distracting, especially when we were getting these brief moments of actual honest, down-to-Earth character development. What’s most surprising is that the best of the bunch is probably Macon Blair, who was the star of Blue Ruin and seems to be the least experienced out of everyone here, yet, also brings the most depth and understatements to a character who is really hard to pull off. We never know what side he’s on, if he’s telling the truth, and whether or not he’s really just being taken advantage of, but really, it’s hard to take your eyes off of him.
More of him, as well as Saulnier, please.
Consensus: With a gritty, absolutely brutal tone, Green Room takes no prisoners and doesn’t let go of its audience, until everyone feels as dirty and as ugly as the movie’s characters can be.
9 / 10
Photos Courtesy of: Indiewire