Green Room (2016)
Directed by Jeremy Saulnier
Punk is less a musical genre than a way of being. And if you say you’re punk, you better back it up with some real punk credentials. “Green Room” has those. It embodies the spirit of punk rock not only in its music (which is super punk—I know because I thought it was terrible) but in its thrills and characters and everything else.
The punk band The Ain’t Rights (Anton Yelchin, Joe Cole, Alia Shawkat, and Callum Turner) are desperate for a paying gig. They collect about thirty bucks when they play at a small diner. Just when they’re about to give in and call it a day, they hear about a gig at a bar that’ll pay them quite a bit more. It’s full of skinheads, but so what? Except after the show, they accidentally witness a crime in the green room. To contain the trouble, bartenders keep The Ain’t Rights hostage. And when the owner, Mr. Darcy (Patrick Stewart), arrives, getting out of that bar alive seems like a long shot.
All this raving about Patrick Stewart might be a misplaced way to praise the overall effectiveness of “Green Room.” He’s in the creepiest role of his life, but his understated acting doesn’t imprint itself in my mind half as much as the performances of the victims. In these types of movies, it’s their performances that make or break a film. At first I wasn’t convinced pretty boy Russian Anton Yelchin was punk enough to lead this hair-dyed, tattooed gang of screamers. But then he does the most punk thing ever, and from then on I couldn’t see him as anything else. Imogen Poots, playing a member of another band who’s held captive, also gets deep into character—even after her rom-com history, she becomes punk. Picking actors with little punk cred was a risk, but they made it work.
When Quentin Tarantino praised “Green Room,” I wondered why he would come out from his relative reclusiveness to give his opinion on a movie that’s not his own. Now I see why. I think he loaned “Green Room” some of his fake blood for production. This wildly unpredictable thriller makes no promises that your favorite characters will see the end. No one is safe from the machetes, shotguns, box cutters, and dogs that all become weapons of mass destruction.
“Green Room” is twisted in all the best ways. In a year that has already given us “Hush,” and, to a lesser-extent, “The Invitation,” “Green Room” is just another great thriller to hit theaters in 2016. Rock on.