Review: Green Room

Review: Green Room

Something more than violent drama, but not quite horror either, Green Room occupies it's own sort of gritty space. It's unflinchingly brutal and rife with dark tension. Jeremy Saulnier's followup to the critical darling, Blue Ruin, contains much of the same disquieting imagery. In film, gruesome sights are often used for dramatic effect. If we want to make the audience wince and cower, show them this. Green Room certainly has its fair share of that, but it's the dramatic tension that makes the movie feel like it rushes by in much less than its 95 minute runtime. 

Photo Courtesy of A24

Photo Courtesy of A24

The film follows a touring band, The Ain't Rights, traveling through the Pacific Northwest. They show up to a gig outside Portland, only to learn that they will be performing for Neo-Nazi skinheads. Once they finish their set, they become witnesses to something they were not meant to see, and the skinheads who run the venue lock them in the green room to stop them from leaving. 

They are trapped in the room with a sort of skinhead goon, who helps make them feel unsafe even in the confined space. They are also trapped with Amber (played by Imogen Poots), who happens to be in the room when they are all forced back in. She becomes one of our protagonists and is able to give them valuable intel since she is in some phase of being a skinhead as well.

Photo Courtesy of A24

Photo Courtesy of A24

The tension reaches its peak when Darcy (played by Patrick Stewart) shows up and tries to diffuse the situation. It's his calm demeanor that actually makes the danger feel even more real than the yelling and arguing that came before. As he calmly tells them their options from the other side of the door, you really start to feel like these people are in trouble. The action of the movie is contained in their attempts to escape from the "green room" they are trapped in and the skinheads' efforts to keep them from making it out alive.

Saulnier uses ultra-real trauma to up the stakes in this film. Box-cutters, machetes and hunting dogs are the weapons of choice. When guns are used, it tends to be of the shotgun variety. Throughout the film, there are times where the audience has a very real sense that it could all end for any of these characters at any moment. Almost like a first-person video game where you carefully navigate the unknown, our protagonists have no idea what these skinheads are capable of and that gives the film its most frightening elements.

Photo Courtesy of A24

Photo Courtesy of A24

The movie is undeniably well-crafted. Each frame adds and it achieves everything it sets out to. My sole gripe is that what it sets out to achieve is pretty limited. There are peaks allusions to Amber's past and how she became associated with these people, but those allusions are slight. We never get much of a sense how this operation works and why any of these characters are here. I know this wasn't intended to be a deep character study, but it certainly could have gone for more than it did. Because of that, these characters also feel mostly flat and interchangeable, which diminished how invested I felt in them and their well-being. If you are more grounded in the punk music scene, it is possible you will be able to fill in traits where the screenplay is lacking. The characters make references that could offer insights into who they are, but since punk is not my scene, they were mostly lost on me. 

Overall, this effort works. The uncomfortable images create a sense of discomfort as sharp as the machetes wielded by the skinhead villains. If it was happening to characters I cared about, the effect would have been even greater, but as is, it's a pretty satisfying experience. 

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