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Green Room (A Movie Review)

Updated: Mar 25, 2020

Green Room

Green Room


Starring Anton Yelchin, Imogen Poots, Alia Shawkat, Joe Cole, Callum Turner, Patrick Stewart, Mark Webber, Eric Edelstein, Macon Blair, Kai Lennox, David W. Thompson, Brent Werzner, Taylor Tunes, Jake Love, Kyle Love, Jake Kasch, Samuel Summer, Mason Knight and Colton Ruscheinsky.

Screenplay by Jeremy Saulnier.

Directed by Jeremy Saulnier.

Distributed by Lionsgate.  94 minutes.  Rated R.

I’m not going to lie, it will be hard to give Green Room a normal review, just as a straight thriller or even as a piece of entertainment.  The video release (it was briefly in theaters a few months ago) has sadly been tainted by a terrible circumstance which has thrown a pall over the whole project.  While the movie itself had nothing to do with this sad state of affairs, it is still hard to look at the film the same way as I would have just a week ago.

The day before I received the Blu-ray review copy of Green Room in the mail – a film about which I had heard a bit, but did not know too much about – Anton Yelchin, the 27-year-old star, was tragically killed in a freak automobile accident.  Apparently due to a not-yet-fixed system recall on his Jeep, his own car popped into gear while idling in his driveway and pinned the young actor to his fence, crushing him.

So now, fair or not, the way one reacts to the movie is going to be tainted (at least for a while) by this sense of needless loss.  However, I’m not going to lie, I don’t think I would have liked Green Room even if it weren’t traveling with such tragic baggage.  It’s such a oppressively dark, cynical, violent, angry film that it would be hard to build up any affection for the movie anyway.

The fact that it may be a promising young actor’s final starring film while he was alive just makes it sadder.  It will not be his absolute final shot: Yelchin completed his return in the supporting role of Pavel Chekov in next month’s release Star Trek Beyond and had four other projects at differing stages of production, some of which may eventually be released.

The basic plotline of Green Room is deceptively simple.  It centers around The Ain’t Rights, (Joe Cole, Yelchin, Callum Turner and Alia Shawkat) a hardcore punk band with a teeny-tiny following is in the middle of a failure of a tour.  They are the type of pretentious rock group that says with a straight face in an interview that they prefer not to have their music too out there, because people will never understand what they are about if they don’t see them live.  (That was not a hypothetical statement on my part, they actually have this interview in the opening scenes.)

After their latest gig, in which they made less than $7.00 apiece, they are in desperate need of money to get to the next tour stop.  Therefore, they agree to a last-minute matinee gig at this neo-Nazi roadhouse run by a group of White Supremacist Survivalists somewhere in the middle of nowhere in Oregon.  Not being particularly bright kids (as the earlier interview scene warned you), they decide on a whim that it would be wonderfully anti-social to open their set for this rather cranky crowd with a Dead Kennedys song called “Nazi Punks, Fuck You.”  However, they eventually win over the crowd and the rest of their set goes fine.

Things go awry when they are leaving and Pat (Yelchin) mistakenly walks in on the murder of a young girl in the band’s dressing room.  The band wants to report the murder to the cops.  The neo-Nazis, knowing they do not want the police searching the joint, do not agree with this idea.  Therefore the band and another witness (Imogen Poots) are locked in the club’s green room and held prisoner.  The Nazis have dozens of people, many guns, two killer pitbulls.  The band have a single revolver and a box cutter.

The film follows them as they try to figure a way out of the predicament as the Nazis become more and more determined that there should be no witnesses.  It all degenerates into an ugly and violent free-for-all as the band members and their new friend try to survive.

Every once in the while, the movie tries to defuse the oppressively dark atmosphere it has built up by trying, mostly unsuccessfully, to allow the characters some quirky, lighter moments of dialogue.  For example, there is a running gag about “desert island bands” which thuds spectacularly every time they revisit it – and there were at least three incidences in the script where it pops up unexpectedly and unnecessarily.

The cast was mostly just fine for the limited amount of actual acting which they were allowed to do.  Yelchin actually feels the most miscast here – he was always a quiet, thoughtful presence on film and this role does not take advantage of his natural gifts.  Poots does better as a cynical fellow survivor, and Shawkat brings a welcome bit of levity to her role.  Patrick Stewart does a fine job of going against type, with a quietly chilling portrayal as the cold-blooded neo-Nazi group leader.  (Though his British accent keeps threatening to creep in on this American character.)

In many ways, Green Room is scary and exciting, but in the long run it all seems like too much.  No one is going to expect a movie revolving around white supremacists to have a light touch, and sadly, our heroes are not all that much more likable.  There is probably an audience for this, but the longer I watched, the more I wanted to be far, far away from these people and their petty, nasty little war.

Jay S. Jacobs

Copyright ©2016 All rights reserved. Posted: June 26, 2016.

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