Green Room : A Film Review

A Punk Rock thriller. Director, Screenwriter : Jeremy   Saulnier.

Starring:Patrick Stewart, Anton Yelchin, Imogen Poots, Alia Shawkat, Joe Cole, Callum Turner, Mark Webber, Eric Edelstein, Macon Blair, Kai Lennox. Genre:Drama, Thriller. USA. Cert. 18. Duration. 1hr 35mins.

img_2189Journey into the unknown

Be warned this has extreme levels of Violence.

Not for nervous novice film goers. It’s intro takes us into the gentle, hitherto fairly uncomplicated world of a band trying their best to do something different by doing the same all new bands reluctantly/intensely/purposely – it’s a matter of personal choices – to give it lots. So how does this everyday type occurrence turn out badly for them, because it most certainly does?  They are in a town which has rewarded them poorly for the gigs performed as part of a Club bill normally and are in desperate need of some alternatives.  The intro to the film has them wake up off road and in a field in their Band van or bandwagon come to that.  It’s a decent fit for the five band members and one is a girl bass guitarist.  They reveal their favourite method of continuing on the road by acting illegally to obtain fuel to continue on to their last gig.  Once they arrive in the town they rendezvous with the contact, a Mohican coiffured punk who is both putting them up and who has arranged their gig.  He does this because the band money is split 50/50 and the bands part gets divided by five!   He is straight with them and after the lousy fee he feels obliged to help out more.

Not THE GREYHOUND Croydon mosh pit!

This is really where the story begins.  He sets them up with a gig further North and near Portland.  Now Portland is a fine decent place in my mind,  I even saw the Portland Oregon Free Choir last year here and the multi-racial religious mix and not to mention their singing was blissfully bridge building.  So outside Oregan; the band, especially Alia ask about the redneck rating of the place.  The Mohican gives them a heads up saying it’s OK but keep stum and don’t say your Kewish or whatever.  They go and drive into a Club based in a clearing in a wood with trailers, sheds, a Barnlike Clubroom and are greeted by the Mohicans Uncle/Cousin contact who fills them in on protocol.  It isn’t the warmest of greetings and the deal is quickly agreed to accommodate the Club manager who has a striking resemblance to Chris Moyles (ex/off on R1 DJ) and he is business like and knows what he needs. He even asks -and this is a kind of false sense of security director Jeremy Saulnier places in the script – ‘Are you using the House kit or do you want to use your own?’ – so the band is all the House manager is interested in to feed his customers their music needs, to play for the hoard of young redneck hard hells angel remodels that comprise a hard indie rock following or as the case may be a bunch of malcontent youths willing and able to be led by white supremisists if that would be the order of the locale.  And guess what that basically is the set up.

A mosh but it’s too orderly! How is that?! Only moderate pushing and shoving and no gobbling?!

They perform and then one of them sees something they shouldn’t.  Now this is some  30 – 40 minutes in so maybe I shouldn’t be telling you this.  Actually that is the simple part.  Understanding the set up (it’s not a set up) is instrumental in showing how innocent and unclear they, the youth and the band, are about the undercurrent present in fringes and backwoods of America.  It may or may not ring true but Director Jeremy Saulnier has written this with a clear sense of authoritive ‘I know what I’m talking about, I know what goes on, I want to show you a dark venomous delinquent dangerous, monumentally prejudiced and dangerous side of our sweet old US of A.’  My words not his. It is constructed with a knowing insightful base and in the jugular, head wrecking, off the wall, unconsiable violent, psychotic behavior present and up front. I hate and also despair of violent movies and see no point in them being made.  They pander to a group mentality of debasement as there but for the grace of a God go I mentality. If only that were the half of it.  The baseless of criminality is not entertainment nor is it informative.  It’s just a modern updating of slasher nasty violent thuggery seen in second rate films of any era.  Has it a political point?  Don’t think so.

Ok she’s a lead guitarist!

“We can’t take it so seriously,” says Anton Yelchin, the bands bassist Pat points out. So comedic value? No! It’s as scary as most films go.  He is in the midst of this very bad situation looking for deflection techniques and he and the others come up with some of the bat stupid ideas they quickly discard.  How to deal with the situation is the making of the story.
It’s only pretend but it’s also Shakespeares drama and gore rolled up in a ball of in your face violent action and mayhem. Deliverance has been mentioned, Assualt on Precinct 13 will appear as mentions in many reviews.  The club owner of familiar menace is no other than Mr Star Trek himself, the brilliant actor, Patrick Stewart showing how despite his familiarity to us all shows amazing versatility only top class actors can delivery.  Hubris, depth, along with assured claustrophobic driven direction of sitting on the shoulders of the protagonists gives the heft and heave of chiller thriller of the filmatic tundra the direction brings.

img_2180Superb portrayal of an angsty modern 21st punk.

The programme of QFT said of the violence, ‘ .. technique .. : allowing the horror to manifest itself in the mind of the viewer as much as it plays out on the screen.’   Well if only that were true and we had less visual gore and front on full graphic violence.  The act of showing these acts became gratuitous and despite the refinement of light, claustrophobic rooms, The Green Room of the title in particular complete with the sliding bolts, was gruesome beyond acceptable cinematic value.  It screwed the picture up to make it have appeal to a particular audience who say ‘your never going to believe this, this is awesome in your face violence and seldom do you get an 18 these days so you’ve got to see it – face jaw dropped – exclamation mark.’ That’s as purine a piece of marketing film choices as befits box office before film making. Neither mutually exclusive. Young hopelessly out of their depth the young band are in a dangerous place and their dilemma is brilliantly cast and portrayed with grimacing tight teeth clenching edge of the set reactions from yours truly. I’ve not gone soft and I see the fact of film making enabling the tension it is inconceivable to rationalise, with suspenseful (literally) direction of a strong narrative at pace. Son of Saul recently opened and the writhing in agony of asphyxiation was plain to anyone with imagination. No visual content was expatiated. It did not intimidate you into constructing a fierce distaste and more importantly the means to speak openly and forcefully against all forms of violence.  Its depiction therefore illuminating lay of contrast. Need necessity are as matters of loss  of a single life whaatever the extremes of removal of the liberty of life and have a stark equality.

Conclusion ###3 

Despite the ‘prejudice’ against movies purely out to shock and gain an audience this film is well made and full of suspense. Some Directors like Wes Craven like their screen violence and say it is morally fine as it is …etc.  Cinema and the punters are more discerning. It overdoes it as far as violence is concerned and maybe to make a point about the state the good old US of A has become or may become.  It anesthestises youth and conspirators as being the power cult hero of psychology analysis. It shows a set of young people aspiring for better things caught up in a tundra beyond their school grades. The performances are collectively very convincing with special character playing managed as a singular lone star spirit by Imogen Poots.  At times deranged at others constructive, intelligent and stoic. As for Patrick Stewart, his performance is no more than effective with some accent problems, is it American? is it English? and a physically strong presence, thoroughly believable but somewhat restrained as though depicting his role as a Nazi sympathiser being a considered level headed dude.  Being level headed is his form of survival.  As the events run out of control he has to be the wise guy coming up with alternative solutions which he does, though some are far fetched, such as the final fix. So that’s another imperfect crime scene for CSI to unweaned.

John Graham

19 May 2016


To be screened at QFT Befast from this Friday 20 May through to and including 26 May 2016.

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