Review: Green Room (2015)

Crimson Quill’s Appraisal #694

Number of Views: One
Release Date: May 17, 2015 (Cannes), April 15, 2016
Sub-Genre: Suspense Thriller
Country of Origin: United States
Budget: $5,000,000
Box Office: $3,800,000
Running Time: 95 minutes
Director: Jeremy Saulnier
Producers: Neil Kopp, Victor Moyers, Anish Savjani
Screenplay: Jeremy Saulnier
Special Effects: Mike Marino, Joe Badiali, Danny Wagner
Visual Effects: Chris Connolly, Stephen Prouty
Cinematography: Sean Porter
Score: Brooke Blair, Will Blair
Editing: Julia Bloch
Studios: Broad Green Pictures, Film Science
Distributor: A24
Stars: Anton Yelchin, Imogen Poots, Alia Shawkat, Joe Cole, Callum Turner, Patrick Stewart, Macon Blair, Mark Webber, Kai Lennox, Eric Edelstein, Samuel Summer, David W. Thompson, Colton Ruscheinsky

Suggested Audio Jukebox ♫

[1] Dead Kennedys “Holiday in Cambodia”
[2] The Ain’t Rights “Toxic Evolution”
[3] The Ain’t RightsNazi Punks, Fuck Off”
[4] Creedence Clearwater Revival “Sinister Purpose”
Slayer “War Ensemble”

I wish I was a punk rocker with flowers in my hair. I was born too late you see, into a world that doesn’t care. Share? Well I’d be delighted yes. Where do I sign on? With snot you say? Must I really fuck the man? Wouldn’t a fisting suffice? Do I already qualify? I mean, I can belt a chorus and there’s an undeniable DIY approach to my art so that should make me an honorary firestarter right? At the very least it should earn me a spot on the guest list. I geddit, I’ll be required to live out of the back of a van for a few months, shag some groupies, redistribute some STDs, maybe crack a couple of skulls if the mood suits. Gotcha. I can do that. And who’s gonna stop me? The establishment? Don’t make me laugh as it will only come out as a guttural growl. Just so we’re clear, I’m not getting my Prince Albert pierced. I’m happy to go 95% punk but draw the line at punctured junk. Too much funk.

Unless I’ve been guzzling down the wrong puke here, it’s all about youth rebellion, pouring scorn on political agenda and rejecting authority. I’m all for a spot of mostly harmless anarchy but does that I mean I’m no longer permitted to listen to Billy Joel? Perhaps I could commit to being a part-time punk. After all, we’ve got garage punks, gutter punks, Afro punks, queercore punks, skate punks, glam punks, riot grrrl punks, daft punks, and countless other punk sub-divisions aside so it’s not like I’m cutting down my options. One thing’s for sure, I’m not cut out for being a Nazi punk as those small-minded goons are downright rude and I don’t greatly care for their theory. Anyhoots, those fires aren’t starting themselves so I guess we should meet and greet tonight’s band right?

Hailing from D.C. and some way from their zip code, The Ain’t Rights, are a hardcore punk outfit comprising Tiger (Callum Turner), Sam (Alia Shawkat), Pat (Anton Yelchin), Reece (Joe Cole) and some moody chick in a bomber jacket who I presume just tagged along for the photo-op. Let’s call her Sullen Sally for now. I’m sure she’ll introduce herself at some point, but for now, the others have some decisions to make. Since their cross-country radio spot fell through at the very last, their contact has called in a favor and hooked them up with a gig in the remote Oregon woods as a peace-offering. Can’t say fairer than that. Granted they won’t be provided top-billing as neo-Nazi unit Cowcatcher already nabbed that spot but a gig’s a gig, particularly when you’re having to resort to siphoning gas illegally just to keep the wheels greased. Hardly what you would call the Ritz, this heaving cesspit has more than a faint whiff of the Sieg Heil! about it. Swastikas are scrawled across the grungy walls, Confederate flags hang ominously all around, and as for the clientèle, well I’m not convinced a thorough hose down would rid this particular rowdy rabble of their deep-rooted grime. Best not rile them guys. May I suggest opening with a cover?

Abort! Abort! While Nazi Punks, Fuck Off by Dead Kennedys is unquestionably a rousing little barnstormer to kick things off with, the Nazi punks filling this place to capacity don’t appear quite sure how to take it. To give The Ain’t Rights their props, their enthusiastic renditions seem to have won this stubborn crowd over eventually but I can’t see any of these white supremacists signing their leg casts if they “break a leg”. Fuck it, one quick trip to the off-stage lounge to collect their belongings, and all that’s left is to make a suitably rock ‘n’ roll exit. Just remember guys, pay no mind whatsoever to the green room stiff with a sharp object rammed through her temple and we’ll be out of here before you can say “I wanna be sedated”. Pat knows that one only too well.

Minor change of plan. How does being hunted for your pelts sound? It’s nothing personal, more a case of wrong place, wrong crime, as y’all only went and unwittingly accessorized yourselves to first degree murder didn’t cha? Clench not those buttocks as the venue’s acting chief, Gabe (Macon Blair), has absolutely no intention of bothering the back-logged sheriff’s department over such a trivial hiccup. One call to top dog, Darcy Banker (Patrick Stewart), and this ugly mess will simply go away. Needless to say, you’ll be free to leave unharmed providing you disarm your hostage and hand over the loaded revolver with the bare minimum of fuss. Darcy hasn’t got time for panic room stand-offs when there are so many young impressionable minds to mold so it’s a good job he can snap his fingers.

Well slap my thigh and call me Ada, it’s only the brooding lass in the bomber jacket again. Apparently she answers to the name Amber (Imogen Poots). Actually, Amber don’t answer to no fucker. Ordinarily it would be a great time to get a little sentimental, reminisce over the good times before accepting the felonious fate laid on for you, but Amber’s not really one to get all misty-eyed. Don’t be fooled by the twee Chelsea fringe or pretty vacant look of despair; this feisty little firecracker learned her life lessons years back courtesy of surrogate parents Madonna and Slayer (emphasis on the latter). 

With blitzkrieg banging on the door to no avail (ever so politely I might add) and this crime scene not cleaning up itself, Darcy is beginning to grow a little impatient and it appears that something will be required to give. And give it bloody well does as these two tribes go to war and so ends negotiations. A point is all either team can score but the statistics don’t make for encouraging reading. Dozens upon dozens of embittered skinheads led by a passive aggressive slaphead who has far better ways to spend his evening than dig five shallow graves when he can just as easily burn the whole joint down and claim insurance; versus a band that impolitely requested through verse that his entire movement “fuck off”. That’s strike one in favor of the meat-grinder methinks.

Stewart is chillingly effectively here, soft-spoken in his menace and only ever one botched order from losing his cool. The fact that he can blend into society effortlessly and keeps his raving loony side locked down for situations such as this makes him all the more oppressive and the distinguished Englishman plays gleefully against type, reminding us all that he could snuff us out with no more than a sneer. There are times when Darcy feels detached, as though he swears blind that there would be better ways of luxuriating his downtime and each painfully put out pore screams “laugh goddamn you” during such precious moments.

This dash of vintage is clearly infectious as our beleaguered band plus aids come across as unequivocally natural. A fuck you mentality can only get you so far when prone to human error and there is more than enough of that going around to derail their Trojan; yet they fight the good fight with teeth gritted and fall in the very same manner. The tragic loss of Yelchin still feels bone raw and his back to the wall turn as Pat just makes his untimely departure feel all the more unfathomable.

Poots too is a revelation, refusing to give a shit when we all know damn well she does. Care or not, Amber never lowers her guard enough to nuzzle into and has twin barrels pressed against our bag balls just in case we get ideas above our station. As for Blair, well he may be positioned on the fringe for the most part, but he makes Gabe’s angst personal and this makes for a fascinating dwindling group dynamic that could swing violently either way at any given moment. This is powder keg stuff Grueheads.

Jeremy Saulnier has arrived and his 2014 sophomore feature, Blue Ruin, already did a fairly spectacular job of introducing him to the good people of Cannes so I’d imagine it’s onward and upwards from hereon in. His direction is on-point, his box cutter-sharp screenplay – on-point, Sean Porter’s close-quarters cinematography – on-point; and the fact that Green Room has the mosh-pit mentality to warrant mention in the same breath as the likes of Sam Peckinpah’s Straw Dogs and John Carpenter’s Assault on Precinct 13 stands testament to its cinematic prowess. The closing line of dialogue sums the whole gig up nicely and ironically doubles up as the film’s overarching motto. I could spill the beans but I think I’ll tell someone who gives a shit.


Crimson Quill’s Judgement: 9/10

Grue Factor: 4/5

For the Grue-Guzzlers: With a team named Prosthetic Renaissance whipping up the coulis, you just know things are going to head south to the border and they invariably do. Way south. However, it’s not the sheer brutality of the gags here (and little is spared believe me) but the bolt-out-of-the-blue manner in which they play out that hits hardest. Each bad bone broken, forearm sliced into sushi, jugular chowed down upon by attack dogs, neck snapped, gut cleaved, cheek blown wide open, and close-range execution carried out becomes burned into the reverse of our eyelids and that’s punk fucking rock if you ask me. 

Read Murder Party Appraisal
Read Odd Thomas Appraisal
Read Fright Night (2011) Appraisal
Read Anton Yelchin: Stargazer

Richard Charles Stevens

Keeper of The Crimson Quill

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