US | 2015 | Directed by Jeremy Saulnier
Logline: A cash-strapped punk band find themselves trapped and fighting for their lives following an incident at their gig in a remote neo-Nazi venue.
Filmmaker Saulnier made his first feature, Murder Party, on the smell of a bloodied handkerchief. Six years later, with the help of crowd-sourcing and shrewd financing, he delivered one of the standout movies of recent years, Blue Ruin, a very grim study of revenge and violence executed with the kind of assured panache that reminded me of the great directors of the 70s. There was much expectation on what would be his difficult third feature.
But I have a confession to make. I first saw Green Room at the Sitges Film Festival in October last year. The movie-watching schedule for Sitges is exhausting, especially when you’re also doing a lot of networking and drinking. The session for Green Room was a late one, and I didn’t fare too well, nodding off frequently, and even having to make an emergency slash during a crucial part of the movie (I ended up missing one of the gore set-pieces!) In the end my memory of the movie was that it wasn’t anywhere near as impressive as Blue Ruin, but in the months after I had to remind myself that the experience of it had been severely handicapped.
Watching it a second time recently I discovered I had missed far more of it than I realised. The movie is an excellent chamber piece, a thriller with a strong backbone of horror. I still think Blue Ruin is a more powerful and resonant narrative, but Green Room packs serious punch. I also still have reservations with the casting of Patrick Stewart as the central villain, Darcy. He is forever etched as Captain Picard and Professor X, I couldn’t quite remove those characters from my mind enough to engage him as the scheming, ruthless owner of the skinhead club.
The rest of the cast are solid and includes great performances from Imogen Poots as Amber, Anton Yelchin (R.I.P.) as Pat, and Alia Shawkat as Sam. Also of note is Macon Blair (the lead in Blue Ruin) playing Picard’s, er, I mean Darcy’s right hand man, and a bunch of unknowns playing the neo-Nazi thugs. If Darcy had been played by an unknown Green Room’s tone of menace would’ve been lifted tenfold.
One of the elements that stood out so strongly in Blue Ruin was Saulnier’s attention to the graphic realism and sudden impact of violence. Once again he displays a Scorsese-like punch with the ultra-violence; Green Room sports some truly savage and horrific injuries, made disturbingly realistic, although it must be said, there is no way Pat would be able to endure his extreme wounds for so long without passing out from nerve damage and loss of blood. But hey.
Just as there was a sadistic streak of jet-black humour that run like an dangerous undercurrent though much of Blue Ruin, there is the same malevolent comedic tone hissing and spitting in the background of Green Room. It’s a very unique sense of humour and one that will continue to give Saulnier the kudos he so obviously owns. Along with a handful of other contemporary directors, such as Ben Wheatley and Jeff Nichols, Saulnier is carving his own way into a great new wave of savvy, fearless, idiosyncratic directors who are delivering powerful and original pieces of cinema.
Oh, and for the record, I reckon Pat's Desert Island Band is The Police.