Movie Review: Green Room

Published on April 26th, 2016 in: Current Faves, Horror, Movie Reviews, Movies, Music, Punk, Reviews |

By Brian Baker

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At one point, during the film Green Room, “Welcome to the meatgrinder” is uttered.

No other phrase can sum up the misadventures of an out-of-town punk quartet—with left-of-the-middle politics—as they take on a last-minute gig at a white supremacist roadhouse outside of Portland, Oregon.

Green Room is director Jeremy Saulnier’s third full-length feature and much like his cult favorite Blue Ruin, it’s a lovely shot of adrenaline directly into the scrotum called fear.

WARNING: SPOILERS

The film starts with our four intrepid travellers—Pat (Anton Yelchin), Sam (Alia Shawkat), Reece (Joe Cole) and Tiger (Callum Turner), of the Ain’t Rights—awakening from their slumber to find Tiger has crashed the van into a cornfield. They’re from Arlington, Maryland, broke, and have an empty gas tank—ergo their get-up-and-go to siphon gas from the unsuspecting rubes at a local hockey rink. Pay attention, for these little details have the devil sig heiling to the neo-Nazis that our young punks (used in the politest sense) will encounter down the road.

Like most young bands, they crash at an acquaintance’s pad. They’re interviewed for a local independent radio station, and when the planned gig falls through, the result is a backwoods junket for extremists. The only caution by their mohawked friend, “Don’t talk politics.” And what do our misfits do? They play “Nazi Punks Fuck Off.” Amusing, and true to the punk ethos of our misfits. It also reveals the latent intolerance of the band which creates that tension all thrillers require. The locals aren’t exactly pleased. But they warm to the rest of the music.

After a rousing performance the troupe sees their equipment outside of their green room. The Bambi-legged bassist Pat, in a quixotic attempt to retrieve Sam’s phone, walks in on a murder scene. There he meets the metal trio, Cowcatcher, and their two, for the lack of a better term, groupies—one of whom has a pair of pliers jammed into her temple. Cowcatcher is let loose by the manager (Macon Blair), while the remaining hanger-on, Amber (Imogen Poots), is roomed with the Ain’t Rights.

Shit gets real from that point in time.

I equate the experience of Green Room to watching rats in Tryon’s experiment. But instead of getting a shock in place of cheese, our protagonists are mauled by neo-Nazi dogs, both in the literal and figurative sense. I must admit, there aren’t too many uses of dogs as weapons in films, and it added to the ugh factor. For those who like necks, it’s advised you look away—twice.

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But what’s really disquieting is the roadhouse owner Darcy Banker’s (Patrick Stewart) cold, calculating demeanor as he tries to unravel the clusterfuck that has fallen on his business. There are more reasons to protect the backwoods bar than just the fascist ideologies. He’s patient, unfeeling, almost Joseph Goebbels-worthy with his own version of cruel intolerance. Stewart steals the show, but it’s quickly taken back when Yelchin, the anointed leader of the Ain’t Rights, decides to grow a pair.

Death happens fast for most of our good guys. Reece acknowledges this in the band’s last time together, one that elicits a “Maybe we should split up” from Amber. Only to be rebuffed by Tiger, “Totally.”

Without giving away too much Pat’s nervous pep talk about taking on US Marines in a paintball game is the touchstone of this film. Heed it, for he starts his story at one point of the film, and finishes it just before the film’s final battle.

Green Room is a savage heat that makes us join in on the race for survival. The claustrophobic nature of the roadhouse, and the disorienting forests of Oregon add to the mood.

I would go back to see this film again, to pick up on the nuances that were missed the first time around, and to answer the light-hearted question posed to the Ain’t Rights: Who’s your desert island band?

Green Room opens on April 28 in Toronto, and will be playing at Scotiabank Theatre.

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