In Green Room, a group of young and conceited punk rockers travel to one last unscheduled gig after their tour bottoms out. The White Supremacist punk scene of the club proves to be more shady than it first appears. The mosh pit is slowed to a balletic chaos as they perform. The atmosphere of the audience is unforgiving. And the green room backstage is an environment of violent undoing.
The film, like the music it portrays, is unrefined, but it is a purposefully stylized unrefined. The low key lighting and grimy aesthetic is what has become “torture porn chic.”
What writer-director Jeremy Saulnier, whose 2013 microbudget indie thriller Blue Ruin received critical success, does differently than torture porn is deliver a slow burn first act, a nagging illness rather than violent vomitus. Diffusing humor works to lessen the tension just enough as to not desensitize the viewer from the tension’s grasp.
While we’re talking about torture porn, let’s mention the obvious: it is a highly divisive genre. But this isn’t your little brother’s torture porn. It is a hyper-tense, intermittently explosive thriller characterized by exquisite tonal control. Does it lack a non-conventional genre aesthetic? No. Does it transcend to a point of staying power in the mind? No. Is it superior to the director’s last outing? Not quite. But it is a higher class of a lower genre. That means more than you might think.
Patrick Stewart is expectedly awesome as the film’s antagonist. He is quiet, calculated, some how mumbling with perfect elocution. Stewart’s main henchman Gabe is played by Blue Ruin lead Macon Blair, who holds his own against the classically trained actor. His oscillating tone of calm and brashly anxious is well gauged. Given Stewart’s character is more background noise than anything else, Blair steals the show, proving once again that Blair is a rising name in the indie scene.
The other acting performances are good albeit not particularly memorable. Yelchin, Shawkat, and Poots helm the protagonist lead positions well enough, although Yelchin’s allegorical paintball story is more reductive than engaging. Poots is the most electrifying performance of the three, accomplishing a lot with a character that has little depth.
You won’t extrapolate anything intellectually fulfilling or stunningly new from Green Room, but you will find a well-directed film of punk music nightmarishly personified to characters that have to face the fact that they aren’t really punk at all. An expert handling of tone and tension makes this another high mark for Saulnier.
You can find Saulnier’s previous feature, Blue Ruin, on Amazon Video here.
As always, thanks for reading!
—Alex Brannan (@TheAlexBrannan)
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