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 A bone-crunching, angry, and hard-hitting experience from writer/director Jeremy Saulnier.

 

With all the formulaic filmmaking business practices out there flooding the market with reboots, sequels, and superhero properties, good young directors are not only sparse but absolutely crucial to the future of varied narrative filmmaking itself. When one comes along, it’s not hard to miss what could be a creative work not seen often in theaters, as with writer/director Jeremy Saulnier. At only his early 30s, Saulnier already broke out a couple years back with 2014’s subtle stunner Blue Ruin, an understated revenge tale that found an appropriate audience on Netflix after a brief but middling run at Sundance (accepted the second time submitted). A corporate cinematographer by trade, Saulnier cast a personal footprint over his own works from the very beginning. He has a visual style that should establish itself with his third and most recent feature Green Room. Although he did not shoot Green Room himself, it encompasses all that makes Saulnier a ridiculously talented filmmaker, despite still in the beginnings of what will eventually be a stunning cinematic career.

 

Green Room is a bone-crushing, grimy, angry, and loud work of intense filmmaking that takes any and all expectations of the “terror” genre and shoves them aside, leaving a wild story with no predictable direction. The story surrounds a small group of young and independent punk band members drifting around rural Oregon looking for their next gig to pay for their essentials. A local punk-scene reporter gets them a fresh gig which pays more than they’re used to, but the venue is located in a racist, bigoted, trashy community in the heart of a rural Oregon woods. Still, when you’re that young, that dedicated, and that passionate, you do what you have to do. During this concert, one of the members, Pat (played by Anton Yelchin) accidentally stumbles upon the remnants of a murder scene in their green room, and such circumstances lead the rest of the band to be held in the room while the nasty locals decide how to clean up the mess before sunrise.

 

The plot doesn’t sound like anything overly new or fresh, and in the hands of anyone else, it wouldn’t be. But Jeremy Saulnier is the kind of director who takes careful consideration of every element of his work – something so few directors today actually do. Atmosphere is one of those elements; a sense of establishment that truly brings you inside the setting of the movie. The lush woods of deeply rural Oregon give way to a trashy concert venue that truly breathes its own life. Each room is drenched in messy graffiti, stickers and posters which all form a rich history of punk-like angst and sweat. It feels like a venue that has seen its fair share of lived-in squalor, with the beer soaked floors and walls to prove it. But this setting is a place of deep hatred that isn’t subtle, with Nazi paraphernalia strewn about and barely a follicle of hair on the droves of skinheads littering the sweaty mosh pits. It’s a corrupted punk-scene wannabe’s paradise. Saulnier doesn’t hammer the nasty ideals of its locals at the audience, but rather lets it sit in the background for you to notice, acknowledge, and understand. The old florescent lights shimmer and illuminate the space and characters within it in a way that encompasses a darkness that mirrors the souls of the locals, and the results are an anti-beauty that still pleases the eye throughout. But the sense of hatred and noise this space shows blossoms when the owner of the establishment, Darcy (played menacingly by Sir Patrick Stewart), enters with his own ideas as how to fix the fatal scenario.

What makes Green Room so engrossing is the way Saulnier’s script sets up the world of the venue, giving each character a backstory you can make out clearly without it being explained. The employees and locals of this venue live in their own community with its own rules deep within the walls themselves. Darcy and his crew have clearly dealt with such a circumstance before, but while any other movie would have him wanting to kill these band members to solve the problem, Darcy simply wants it all to go away. Sadly, in the world of Green Room, you do what you have to do to make it all go away, and if that means killing, so be it. Darcy is a malicious, savage beast of a man, someone who has seen too much and showed mercy on too little. But we never see any other part of his life besides this one night.  That may be so we know all we need to know by the way he goes about his attempt to clean up the mess that occurred while he was away. He’s the ringleader of this villainous circus, and his own crew of skinheaded minions do what they’re told because they may ascend their own ranks. We see a scene in which Darcy gives his second-in-command, so to speak, a pair of red shoe laces, exactly like the ones others in his crew wear, as a sort of endearing gift. The reaction Gabe (played by Saulnier-usual Macon Blair) gives leads us to believe this is a hierarchy well established long before the movie opens. It’s a dramatic moment that seems endearing until you remember the lengths Gabe has just recently taken to “earn” these laces. Little moments like this in the script tell us all we need to know, not only about the characters, but the setting and world within its walls.

 

The violence of Green Room alone separates itself from most of the movies we see today. Much like director Steve McQueen, Jeremy Saulnier prefers to keep the camera focused on the violence, not shying away unless completely necessary. This is a nasty movie full of nasty violence, with guns, blades, and rabid dogs all being used smartly and efficiently. The small group of band members are not idiots, and they use what they have to use to ensure their own safe escape, whether it works in the end or not. They make choices that are easily relatable and only do what they do if absolutely necessary. However, in this world, the violence is necessary, and its next-level brutality means Green Room is not at all for the faint of heart. This isn’t fake violence with CGI blood, but rather old-school violence, which, when done well, is more cringe-inducing than anything computers can create. It’s the kind of respectable violence that makes you appreciate the more gritty slasher movies of the 1970s and 1980s, but with a sort of cool style that feels fresh.

 

Green Room is a movie that makes me happy to love movies. It’s an absolute nightmare so well crafted it leaves you breathless by the time the credits roll. Each cast member holds their own with a monster of a performance. Patrick Stewart’s is totally against the norm for him, and Saulnier keeps things agonizingly intense during the entire run time. It’s hard to find faults with this type of experience. When a brilliant director spends so much time on so many small details, you get a passion project that not only demands viewing, but must be encouraged to every other filmmaker. With a release much wider than anything Saulnier has experienced before, there are really no excuses to miss Green Room. Hopefully more works like this can push their way through the droves of more uninspired works dominating box offices today.

 

Directed By: Jeremy Saulnier

Produced By: Neil Kopp, Victor Moyers, Anish Sanjavi

Written By: Jeremy Saulnier

Starring: Anton Yelchin, Patrick Stewart, Imogen Poots

Distributed By: A24

Release Date: April 29, 2016

Run Time: 95 Minutes

Rating: R

 

About The Author

Steve Carley

Steve Carley is a Michigan-born lover and resident of the film industry in Atlanta, Georgia. When he's not infiltrating the nearest Waffle House or giving up on the most recent movie-adapted book he can be seen lounging in his apartment complex's pool and regretting the way he wrote his Film Takeout bio.