GREEN ROOM 
Directed by Jeremy Saulnier
Written by Jeremy Saulnier
Blue Ruin caught most of us unaware, Jeremy Saulnier crafting a brilliant revenge-thriller on a minuscule budget with a relative unknown lead actor in Macon Blair. He obviously made an impression, as the budget has been increased here as Patrick Stewart is on board, along with some other familiar faces. Needless to say then, this film has a lot to live up to.
A punk band is doing their best to land gigs, but their belief in the punk ethos is holding them back – they don’t do this for money, they do not care about social media; they are in it for the music and the music alone. This is a very real attitude amongst bands of this nature (mine included) and therefore feels very realistic.
The obvious problem with this punk attitude is, if one decides to play music full-time, that becomes your only source of income. With no internet presence, already playing a brand of music that isn’t exactly mainstream, it is obvious from the first scene that the group are struggling, driving around in a battered camper-van looking for that elusive gig that will land them enough money to feed themselves for a week or so.
After an interview early in the film, their friend offers them an opportunity to play a show. It doesn’t sound like the best deal, but in their position, they can’t exactly turn down an opportunity to play. However, a nasty surprise awaits them, as the venue for their gig is a neo-nazi club, owned by a true sociopath.
Saulnier certainly knows his stuff, as heavy music is almost the only type of music accepted by these neo-nazi skinheads. Punk is a little different from heavy metal though, and after the band arrives and realises the type of place they are playing at, they have a quick band meeting. We soon learn what the meeting was about, as the band hits the stage opening with a cover: the classic Dead Kennedys track, ‘Nazi Punks, Fuck Off!’
Unsurprisingly, the audience doesn’t take too kindly to the lyrics, but the band keep on playing in true punk fashion even as bottles are being thrown at them. It is a brilliantly written segment that depicts what punk is all about.
After the gig, the band go backstage to pack up and leave, only to inadvertently witness a murder. The men in charge know that they need this mess to be cleaned, and to keep the situation clean means that no witnesses will be leaving the premises any time soon. This creates a tense game where the band are coerced into staying in a room with one of the men from the club, the intimidating Big Justin (Eric Edelstein) who in addition to being huge also has a massive revolver to match.
Locked in the room, with the door being their only one way out, the tension begins to build. The band members desperately try to figure out the situation, and soon the owner of the building, Darcy (Patrick Stewart), arrives, talking to them through the locked door. The two groups try to reach a compromise, but this film wouldn’t be what it is if these negotiations were successful!
As any trust is quickly eroded, Darcy’s true intentions become clear and violence and mayhem ensue, but in a very calculated fashion. Much like a good song, the last act of the film plays out using sudden bursts of action with intentional lulls in-between. This approach increases the intensity of the action as Saulnier takes no prisoners with some very violent moments. These graphic scenes aren’t plentiful, which increases their impact even further. The film slowly turns into a guessing game of who will survive.
Rather disappointingly, the complete lack of impact Patrick Stewart has on the film is extremely noticeable. His character is written as a sociopathic neo-nazi who owns the club, who is hell bent on cleaning up the mess in his club in brutal fashion. The way he acts though is far too calm; he barely makes a dent in the film and is not memorable in any way.
I’m sure that is what Saulnier was aiming for, or perhaps Stewart didn’t fully understand the concept of his character. But unlike the rest of the film, his role is not executed well and Stewart doesn’t come across as intimidating in any way, unlike most of his henchmen, including Macon Blair, who is almost unrecognisable after his performance in Blue Ruin.
An entertaining film to be sure, it unfortunately is let down by a bland performance by a great actor, as well as a very underwhelming end to proceedings. Still, Green Room is definitely worth a watch for fans of thrillers, and as it thrills it also is commenting on how musicians with this attitude to music struggle to make ends meet. Our society values art less and less as time flies by, and this is a definite comment on that fact, as it is extremely hard to make a living playing any music that isn’t mainstream pop. Saulnier also must be credited for expanding his abilities to craft a film. What’s next?
One short of a sixer