Fantastic Fest ’15: ‘The Green Room’ – brutal, violent, intense and one of the year’s best

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The Green Room

Directed by Jeremy Saulnier
Screenplay by Jeremy Saulnier
2015, USA

If one was to look at filmmaker Jeremy Saulnier’s filmography, he has three motion pictures to his credit and the first two could not be more different than The Green Room. Murder Party is a hilarious, low-budget, Halloween-centric comedy that also serves as an acerbic satire of the art world. Blue Ruin is a deep, tense, suspenseful revenge neo-noir with Oscar caliber performances. Saulnier’s latest film, Green Room, almost serves to fill in the gap between the ridiculous comedy of Murder Party and the deadly serious drama of Blue Ruin, in its own bizarre way.

The film follows a punk band, the Ain’t Rights, on the tail-end leg of their tour. Living out of their van, the group travels from venue to venue with siphon gasoline and prefers to book concert dates through old school networking instead of relying on online social media. The Ain’t Rights are the classic in-it-for-the-love-of-the-music types and not interested in fortune and glory. They are content in their world of punk rock while living a simple life on the road.

The group reluctantly takes a gig in the Pacific Northwest, knowing full well the audience will consist mostly of jackbooted neo-Nazi thugs. The audience is not their ideal, but the price is right, and they desperately need the cash to get them to the next stop on the tour. However, when the band members become the witnesses to a murder in the club’s eponymous Green Room, they find themselves trapped inside. And on the other side of the door is a group of skinheads who would prefer the band of witnesses disappear and try their best to make it happen.

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The audience is treated to a fantastic siege, ala Assault on Precinct 13 or Die Hard, with a definite punk rock sensibility. The Ain’t Rights aren’t cops; they’re not John McClane nor Ethan Bishop — they’re just struggling musicians in over their head. They don’t know how to handle a gun or how to mount a successful military style extraction, but they do their best to survive, even if that’s not always good enough. Saulnier proves why he’s an expert in creating suspense during the nazi-siege — cranking the tension to “11” and never once letting things slow down.

Green Room is a tense and effective action movie, that is as brutal and violent as the music performed by the central characters. This is sure to make several top-five lists at the various festivals it plays, but don’t be surprised if it also manages to peak a few best-of-2015 lists as well. Ladies and gentlemen, Jeremy Saulnier has arrived, and it’s time for people to sit up and take notice.

– Trevor T. Trujillo

** It’s worth mentioning that Sir Patrick Stewart, of X-Men and Star Trek: The Next Generation fame, shows up as Green Room’s main villain. This adds a degree of weight and gravitas to Saulnier’s already worthwhile filmography. Also present are other recognizable actors like Immogen Poots, Alia shawkat, and Anton Yelchin as well as the extremely talented and frequent Saulnier collaborator Macon Blair. With a cast like that, this movie isn’t screwing around.**

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