TIFF 2015: Jeremy Saulnier's 'Green Room' Set at a Punk Rock Concert
by Marco Cerritos
September 17, 2015
A punk rock concert goes horrible awry in the violent new suspense thriller Green Room, a movie filled with loud music, buckets of blood and white supremacists. The film has a cat-and-mouse structure for most of its running time but thankfully is smart and entertaining enough to have more tricks up its sleeve. The "Ain't Rights" are a punk band on the verge of breaking up for good. As they're introduced, they constantly bicker, continue to play dead-end gigs and as a result are ready to throw in the towel and go home. A last minute opportunity to play a final show in rural Oregon has them reconsider their plans and off they go.
It's always the last job that turns bloody in these types of movies but Green Room knows what kind of genre it's in and has fun subverting expectations. Desperate for cash and low on energy, the worn out quartet arrive at their location but it turns out the venue is in the middle of nowhere and full of white supremacists. Their intimidating leader Darcy (played by Patrick Stewart) makes the rules very clear, play your set and go home but after a mostly positive performance one of the bandmates stumbles upon a murder victim backstage. The accidental encounter causes Darcy to shut the place down and send his followers to hunt down the rockers and erase any knowledge of the crime.
This is where Green Room becomes a gory and smart survival movie pitting the angry racist mob versus the scared musicians hiding out in the backstage green room. People are shot, stabbed and ripped apart in this movie but the jolt of entertainment comes from the characters using their smarts and not their brawn to plan their escape. This is the third feature from writer-director Jeremy Saulnier, who last unleashed the equally claustrophobic Blue Ruin to huge critical praise. His latest is a conscious departure in tone and style but uniformly entertaining. His structure behind the camera is also showing growth, especially his sense of building dread the smart way by taking your time and building up to the payoff instead of going for cheap scares. Green Room is a movie that knows how to have fun and kicks your ass until the very end.
Patrick Stewart in particular is clearly having fun as the villainous white supremacist Darcy, barking orders and doing everything except twirling a mustache. Fans of the famous thespian are in for quite a surprise when they see him command the screen in such an unexpected and devilish way. Stewart has never been this good onscreen proving that the right actor in the right role is a true recipe for success.
Marco's TIFF 2015 Rating: B+
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