A green room is often where nothing much happens before a show, somewhere to kill time before going on stage.
A lot happens in Jeremy Saulnier's Green Room, and time isn't all that's being killed. This is a nasty piece of business, at times feeling just a blood gush shy of being a snuff film. A lot of movies get under your skin; Green Room carves it off the bone.
It's ultimately an exhausting experience, a cinematic wringer Saulnier ruthlessly drags viewers through. Yet even when it's gruesomely repetitive, Green Room possesses an energy bordering on fission. Its core victims are a punk rock band, set upon by neo-Nazi skinheads, with all of the violent tension such music and values contain.
The band is a likable quartet of nihilists called the Ain't Rights: Pat (Anton Yelchin), Reece (Joe Cole), Sam (Alia Shawkat) and Tiger (Callum Turner), who are sensitive sorts when they aren't spitting out profane, antagonistic lyrics. The first act of Green Room is savvy characterization, just enough about their Ramen noodle/siphoned gasoline existence on the road to make them logically take a gig they shouldn't.
Deep in the Oregon woods is a warehouse bar owned by Darcy Banker, played by Patrick Stewart, ditching the Shakespearean tenor to embody dirtbag evil. We'll discover other things going on at Darcy's place but the Ain't Rights are hired for one of the skinheads' frequent debaucheries. Someone gets murdered, the Ain't Rights stumble into the aftermath, and witnesses aren't a smart idea.
Green Room becomes a gut-twisting siege flick, with machetes and ravenous pit bulls among the weapons chosen. Any character can die at any moment, an element of horror often overlooked by star casting choices. Saulnier uses the confined, multi-leveled nature of Darcy's lair to fine claustrophobic effect, its ducts, doors and floorboards used as tension props.
Stewart's performance isn't the landmark it's being sold as; certainly not at Ben Kingsley's Sexy Beast degree of difficulty. But he's effective, shocking in fact for how dastardly low he goes. Green Room is a blunt instrument of terror announcing Saulnier as a filmmaker to watch, just as soon as you pry those fingers off your eyes.
Contact Steve Persall at firstname.lastname@example.org or (727) 893-8365. Follow @StevePersall.