Film review: Green Room scores with a convergence of values

Emerging filmmaker Jeremy Saulnier shoots Green Room, starring Alia Shawkat and Anton Yelchin, full of cleverly constructed, violent thrills. Photo: West End Films Emerging filmmaker Jeremy Saulnier shoots Green Room, starring Alia Shawkat and Anton Yelchin, full of cleverly constructed, violent thrills. Photo: West End Films

It’s not just cultures that clash in Jeremy Saulnier’s Green Room, when a series of unfortunate events finds left-wing punk band The Ain’t Rights playing at a remote club for neo-Nazi skinheads.

After bassist Amber (Alia Shawkat) accidentally witnesses the scene of a murder in the club’s green room—the place acts go before and after performing—the group is held against its will, locked in the room along with the body and the murderers. The band is assured that the police are on their way by club owner and movement leader Darcy (Patrick Stewart), but his actions seem to indicate otherwise.

This tense standoff would be enough to sell Green Room, but if Jeremy Saulnier has proven one thing over his short but accomplished career, it’s that he is the only director capable of unleashing the full potential of his film’s stories. Had Green Room been conventionally filmed with conventional editing between speaker A and speaker B, with less thoughtful cinematography or sound editing, or just a touch more or less gore, it would be a passable yet forgettable genre exercise that might find traction with a few demographics. But the amount of thought Saulnier puts into his craft, his attention to detail and the careful pacing of his punk thriller push it beyond cult favorite to must-see cinema.

While it’d be difficult to find a way for the band and the captives to be more different, the one thing the two camps share is that the politics are more important than the style of music. In possibly the greatest bad idea of all time, The Ain’t Rights begin their set with Dead Kennedys classic “Nazi Punks Fuck Off.” Darcy, meanwhile, has to remind his fellow racists that “This is a movement, not a party,” regarding the excessive substance abuse and seemingly self-centered behavior among the loyal. It’s perhaps because the two camps are linked by this politics-before-punk mentality that their situation escalates as quickly as it does. If the band were all style and no substance, it would have accepted the first offer Darcy makes, which would lead to immediate demise. If the Nazis were not committed to their awful values, they would have murdered them all immediately.

Not a single word, sound effect or camera movement is wasted in Green Room. Saulnier may be the most effective foreshadower making films today, and it is only upon repeated viewings that you are able to pick up on the subtle ways you were guided into the proceedings without the slightest awareness. Surprisingly, the same could be said of the bloodshed, but certainly not due to any sort of restraint. Saulnier is a believer in depicting violence in a realistic way to show how horrifying it can be without any embellishment. Some of the moments may make you squeamish, but even the most brutal act committed by either party could not be considered gratuitous in its depiction. Funny but not a comedy, violent but not pointlessly horrific, tense but not emotionally disturbing, Green Room may be the greatest punk film since Repo Man.

Green Room R, 95 minutes
Violet Crown Cinema, Regal Stonefield 14 and IMAX

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