Sunday, May 1, 2016

Movie Review: GREEN ROOM

In the last couple years, one of the most increasingly interesting studios in the film industry has been A24, a studio seemingly specializing in distributing interesting, quirky, and off-the-beaten-road films, such as 2014's Under the Skin. 2015 was their big breakout year, though, being involved either partially or wholly in the distribution of Academy Award nominees like Room, Ex Machina, and Amy. This year's been no slouch either, with this year's The Witch, one of the most fascinating horror movies in years, being released under their label. And now, for their latest venture, we have Green Room from director, Jeremy Saulnier, one of the most intense, brutal, and uncompromising films of the year so far.

Green Room features a young punk band, struggling to make ends meet and stuck in a van on a small tour. Their tour seems to be a bust, leaving them hardly enough for gas, until a friend manages to book them a gig at a Seattle club that turns out to be run and frequented by a group of Neo-Nazi skinheads.  After bearing witness to some less-than-legal goings ons in the club, the group ends up locked in the club's green room and end up trapped there with armed skinheads on the other side, determined to wipe them out and leave no witnesses alive.

The premise that almost sounds like something out of a Tarantino flick, a bastard child of the Hateful Eight, Kill Bill, and Reservoir Dogs, but whereas Tarantino has a distinctive, over-the-top style to his movies, Green Room is quite the opposite. Instead of dressing its violence with style and flair, this movie is unflinchingly brutal. You feel every bullet, every punch, and every machete slice thanks to the raw aesthetic. If there's anything close to a "style" here, it's a pure punk rock ethos as clear as the punk rock the band plays on stage. Its minuscule budget shows, and in the best way possible. It manages to avoid the trap of being too small to justify its own existence, filling itself with either brutal action or a thick layer of tension. The film also does some interesting things with color, as the name would suggest, not only with green, but with other colors that play interesting roles in the story, especially red.

The cast all does a fine job. Most notably is Patrick Stewart, easily the biggest name in the film, playing against type as the brutal and unflinching owner of the club and leader of the skinheads. I've seen some complaints that he's underutilized, but I find his menace to be a subtle one, an intimidation that permeates the film from the moment he walks onscreen. Among the trapped individuals, no one really fails to deliver at least a suitable performance, with Anton Yelchin (another Star Trek alumn, funny enough) and Imogen Poots getting plenty of time to shine. If there's anything really wrong with the movie, it's some occasionally corny dialogue. including one sore thumb that comes out of nowhere. Without spoiling too much, there's actually a scene where one of the band members actually utters the line "We better split up" as if we've stumbled upon the strangest Scooby-Doo movie ever (Scooby-Doo Meets the Neo-Nazis?). I also find myself at times wondering just what exactly the bad guys' goal here is, with a small subplot emerging halfway through the film that quickly ends up disappearing and never rearing its head again.

Overall, though, Green Room manages to pull off its small scale story with an energy and zeal that I haven't seen since maybe John Wick a few years ago, even if the execution isn't quite as flawless. It's a fascinating and brutal little movie that spells good things for both its director and for A24. Props to them for taking a chance on a movie like this. especially since they don't always pay off. I look forward to A24's next piece of off-the-wall filmmaking.

Tony's Score: 8.5/10

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