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Green Room

Jeremy Saulnier, director of the fantastic “Blue Ruin” a few years ago, returns this year with another color-coded flick, “Green Room.”  The title refers to the backstage room where bands wait to play, and that room has a lot more to do with the plot of this movie than the broken down blue car did in “Blue Ruin.”  Anton Yelchin and Alia Shawkat lead a punk band who, at the end of a disastrous tour, hoping just to make enough gas money to get home, reluctantly take a gig at a backwoods neo-Nazi water cooler.

But they’re in over their heads.  “This is not a party, this is a movement,” the leader (played, surprisingly but effectively, by Patrick Stewart,) declares from the stage at one point, and there’s more going on here than hardcore music and SS jackets.  Stewart leads a crew of fiercely loyal followers, and it begins to look like, once you’re in, there’s no way out.

Members of the band witness something they’re not supposed to, and the titular room becomes their prison, as the Nazi punks try to figure out what do with them. “We’re not keeping you,” the leader says, “you’re just staying.”  And then the green room becomes their fortress, as they try and figure out how to get out of this nightmare situation alive. They mostly don’t.  Horror flick rules apply here; if one of the protagonists is alive at the end, that’s considered a happy ending. This is a midnight movie to be sure, prominently featuring mean dogs and what they can do to throat flesh.

“Blue Ruin” was great because it showed how a normal guy would mess up a standard movie plot; getting revenge isn’t as simple and easy and Charles Bronson makes it look.  “Green Room” operates in that same vein; in movies like this, the characters will usually, at some point, kick into steely-eyed action hero mode finding their inner Steve Seagal. But not here. They bumble through, scared, unskilled, and, like I said, they mostly fail. The guys outside the door don’t have much more experience, and don’t fare a lot better.  It’s like Saulnier is asking “what does a violent conflict look like when neither party has any idea how to kill the other?  “Green Room” doesn’t mine that question for the kind of dark comedy that “Blue Ruin,” did, and I sorely missed that touch. I’m not really a fan of this kind of film; I guess it’s a little too punk for me.  I expect that those who like this kind of thing will hold “Gren Room” in higher regard than I do.  There’s no doubt it’s a well-made film; Saulnier is clearly in control of every element from beginning to end.  And he’s kidding around.

 

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Posted in All Reviews, by Will Krischke.

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