Green Room (18) | Close-Up Film Review


Dir. Jeremy Saulnier, US, 2015, 90 mins

Cast: Patrick Stewart, Anton Yelchin, Imogen Poots, Alia Shawkat

Let’s face it, punks and skinheads are one of those old rival contingents that will never be the best of friends. The genesis of the old rivalry goes way, way back to a time when this primal culture clash of two tribes was dusting it up on the hard cobbles of 1970s Britain.

Well, according to Jeremy Saulnier’s survival thriller Green Room, let’s just say that things haven’t improved that much in terms of good relations between the old firms. In fact, in 2016 things have got a hell of a lot worse between the respective clans, as Patrick Stewart and Anton Yelchin go head-up and ditch the politics in place of a bloody fight for survival.

Pat, Recce, Tiger and Sam are The Ain’t Rights, a grass roots punk rock band that eat, sleep and breathe the spirit of punk like it were their last breath. Touring the backwaters of Northwest America, they’ve no chance of a decent paying gig until they meet punk brethren Tad (pole), who throws them a lifeline, albeit a risky one: it’s $350 an hour but they’re playing for neo-nazi skinheads. It’s a challenging dilemma, but broke and out of luck it’s their only option to keep them on the road until something else turns up.

When showtime kicks off the hostile crowd prove to be hard to win over, even though The Ain’t Rights take every opportunity to hold their own. Post show, the band make it out in one piece and even earn some stripes for their effort from the organisers. It’s not until Sam forgets her phone in the green room that Pat walks in on a violent murder. The triumphant mood quickly becomes menacing as they find themselves unable to leave and held captive in the green room by the white supremacist horde.

Holed up in the green room with no way out and little to bargain with, the band are forced into a desperate situation that calls on their every instinct to fight for their survival.

Green Room is a highly intense but enjoyable blast of pent-up tension that slides from the changeover of the exploits of a band on the road, to an edgy crime thriller that heads right into the brutal maelstrom of survival horror. The make-up of this film gives you a fresh slant on the under-siege ‘cabin in the woods’ scenario: with punks and skins exemplifying good vs bad and the green room becoming a sanctuary for the punk protagonists.

The tense thriller elements move into a darker area that’s less easily identifiable. Let’s not make any bones about it – Green Room embraces some disturbing areas of violence; once the killing starts, the film becomes a bloody and brutal affair. But it also has a clever and subtle way of disarticulating the crime at the centre of the story.

Director Jeremey Saulnier ices the cake with his edgy style that gives a stark authenticity to the music scene that it depicts; this can only come from someone that has a definite affection and affinity for the scene. If you love punk rock, hardcore and extreme metal music you will no doubt revel in the name-checking of seminal bands, not to mention the vigorous soundtrack that is pumped throughout its 90 minutes. Listen out for the likes of Poison Idea, Slayer, Cro-Mags, not to mention the live performance of the Dead Kennedy’s classic Nazi Punks Fuck Off that is humorously intended to piss off the neo-nazi crowd.

Anton Yelchin and Imogen Poots are right for their respective roles, having pedigree in previous musical affairs Jimi, Rudderless and Only Lovers Left Alive. The band are convincing playing live, which must have been factored into the fine casting of the film, especially as Anton Yelchin plays a mean bass guitar.

Take the introspection and wrong-turn elements of Deliverance, the aesthetics and far-right politics of American History X, throw in a touch of This is Spinal Tap for touring-band calamity and you will see why this film comes together so well.

Review by Martin Goolsarran