Monday, May 2, 2016
It's only April, but I think I can confidently say that I have already seen the most intense and unnerving thriller of 2016. With carefully ratcheted tension and strong performances, Green Room delivers the thriller goods with a unique and uncompromising nightmare scenario.
The set-up of the film is fairly simple and straightforward. A struggling punk band, consisting of Pat (played by Anton Yelchin), Sam (played by Alia Shawkat), Tiger (played by Callum Turner), and Reece (played by Joe Cole), is desperate for a new gig to earn at least enough money to travel home. They accept a gig at a backwoods bar that they discover is populated almost solely by skinhead Neo-Nazis. They figure they'll play their set, take the money and quickly leave. This goes to plan until one of the band members goes into the Green Room to retrieve a forgotten cellphone on their way out and discovers a murder scene that occurred while they were on stage. Tensions between the band and the club workers escalate quickly as the band is corralled into the Green Room with one of the bouncers as the owner, Darcy (played by Patrick Stewart), is called in. Also among the people in the green room, as the band members discover is the best friend of the victim, Amber (played by Imogen Poots). Darcy tries to take control of the situation by instructing the bouncer to give the band the gun he has but keep the ammunition. Sensing they are being set up, they overpower the bouncer and take the ammo as well. This creates a tense standoff as the band is literally stuck in a corner - the only exit is through the bar - with a group of people who would rather there not be any witnesses between them.
This film delivers such a palpable nightmare scenario with some well drawn characters to populate it. Both the villains and the heroes feel like people you would actually encounter in real life (for better or for worse). Some people have complained that Patrick Stewart never got a big villainous moment, but for me that just makes his character all the more chilling. He is isn't some big comic book monster, but rather a cold and calculating man who is disturbingly efficient at covering up heinous crimes. But, I suppose if you're the leader of a psychotic backwoods Neo-Nazi hate group, you have to be. Likewise, the band members are well played as well and really sell what a desperate situation this group is in. Of course, this being a thriller, they make some idiotic decisions as the film goes on but that is to be expected in a film like this. Aside from those couple moments though, I can't imagine myself making any choices that were that different than the characters. And that's how I can tell if a movie like this is working for me is if I start putting myself in that scenario and start wondering what I would do.
Anyway, the grounded approach to the material actually helps it's effectiveness. The movie doesn't burst out into extended melee's of ultra-violence, but the moments pack that much more of a wallop, especially as our plucky heroes use whatever they can to defend themselves and unleash it on the Neo-Nazis. The plotting, by the film's director Jeremy Saulnier, is carefully done as it keeps the story movie forward and as things got more and more dire, I found myself wondering if anyone was going to get out of this alive.
Overall, Green Room was an effective little thriller that kept me on the edge of my seat for much of the runtime and then pondering it for the rest of the weekend as well. I was planning on going to see a friend play at a bar in Minneapolis the same day I saw this, but after seeing it, I was feeling very "Ehhh..." about it and ultimately decided to stay home. So, I guess you could say it did for dive bars what Psycho did with showers, at least for me. So, that's saying something.