by Decky Donohoe
“This is a movement not a party”
Let’s get this show on the road.
Ain’t Rights (Or is it Aren’t Rights?) are a punk band on the road that find themselves caught out at the end of a tour. They catch a small break to play a venue for some skinhead Neo-Nazis to get paid and get home. Here, they get caught up in a backstage scene of crime no hapless wanderer should want to encounter.
Sinister already? We’ve only just started. As quickly as it is set up, things go south and a breathy Patrick Stewart leads a murder party bent on silencing the band, now trapped in the green room of the venue. Caught somewhere between a tense siege and art-house splatter flick, the green room of a club has never looked more sinister. It is no doubt taut and leaves you holding your breath and checking your heart is beating a regular pattern.
The follow up to Jeremy Saulnier’s 2013 sleeper hit Blue Ruin pulls few punches and leaves you satisfied as to why so much faith has been given to this breakthrough auteur. He is keen to expand on his gore-fest ideals, yet the violence remains visceral and never takes you away from the dark heart of the story. He’s not trying to shock you with the violence itself, but what it means. Juxtaposing the cut of a knife or the shot from a gun beautifully with slow-mo renditions of a skin head mosh pit, he seeks to show violence on all levels. We are primal beings, sometimes hateful (the Red Laces) and sometimes calculating (a chilling Patrick Stewart-type). We allow ourselves to be shocked and to be scared; we want to remember pain.
Imogen Poots could have more to do and we are never quite sure of her position in the film. Is she a reflection character to develop our hapless band members? Is she a reveal to help us make sense of the reality of this world? Without giving anything away, she is caught up in this like the audience are and her dark horse status leaves her aloof and hard to feel anything for. And Saulnier’s right hand man Macon Blair looks like the bug eyed cousin someone invited to a party that no one talked to, only to discover later he is pretty cool and probably your new best friend.
The story cleverly outsmarts you, which any good thriller should. They don’t play it military (as the late Anton Yelchin suggested) and the decision not to delve too deeply into the plague of fascism or politics is a clever one. It paints a sinister backdrop on its own. If the movie had been set in Britain, you might not be so convinced of yobs in shell suits with posters of Nigel Farage lobbing bottles of Stella Artois at the stage. And they probably couldn’t believably siphon petrol from random cars in a car park, given the surge in oil prices. Bundling a dead body onto the back of a tandem bicycle doesn’t necessarily ruin a good shot but it would lose some of its gravitas.
This film stands as testament to what you can do with an airtight script and a director with the eye of a painter, the last scenes composed to give you a moment to take in what has just happened hark back to Blue Ruin’s opening shots. Setting the scene has never been more understated and here we have more than a few moments to let our minds run over the consequences and possibilities, recoiling at the horror of the unknown. Just look at the last shot, that could be a cult movie poster to rival Pulp Fiction.
Don’t get caught up in Patrick Stewart’s unconvincing accent, the (potential) forensics nightmare or even film stars’ unique ability to function normally though horribly injured (getting dragged around the floor with a knife stuck in your head makes up for that in spades). Green Room is a taut and visceral thriller with the beats of a horror movie and will make you uncomfortable. In a good way. Saulnier gives you that warm, fuzzy film that great indie cinema is not dead. Like punk.
Have you managed to catch Green Room? What did you think? Thanks for reading and comment below!