If there is anything I have learned from watching movies, never, ever take that one last job. No matter how much money, no matter how great the chance of fame, no matter the guilt involved, never take that last gig.
Too bad that these punks have never seen a movie, or they might have figured that out. Alas, they didn’t, and a broke hardcore punk band—lead by guitarist and lead-singer Pat (Anton Yelchin)—takes one last gig hoping to salvage some aspect of this cross-country trip.
Not that their desperation isn’t understandable; they drove cross-country to play a gig that no longer exists and, instead, end up playing a Mexican restaurant for $6.77 apiece—$6.78 if you round up. Not exactly what they hoped for. But their hookup has one more offer. Just one more show closer to Portland for $300, and then they can go home.
The show they take is not one they should have, and it doesn’t take long for them to realize that they are playing a remote club for an exclusive neo-Nazi audience. Is it punk to open the show with a rousing rendition of “Nazi Punks, Fuck Off”? Maybe. But these Nazi punks are packing.
They finish the set, collect their cash but find all of their gear scattered in the hallway in front of the green room. The headliners are here, they are told. Fine, and they gather their things, but the bassist, Sam (Alia Shawkat), remembers she left her phone in the green room, and Pat (Anton Yelchin) goes into retrieve it and finds three large men and one disheveled woman, Amber (Imogen Poots), crying in the corner. Another woman on the floor has a knife in her skull. Call 911, Amber pleads. Pat does, sealing their fate.
Green Room, the second film from writer/director Jeremy Saulnier is a little bit slasher, a little bit siege, and a whole lot of carnage. Called the “Ain’t Rights,” these punks have the punk look, but they ain’t quite got it when it comes to violence. They lack the real-life ferocity to put the fear of God in a man like Nazi punks can. Of course, these Nazi punks are out to kill. And kill they will. And kill they do.
Saulnier’s previous film, Blue Ruin (2014), explored the cyclical and destructive nature of violence and revenge. It is a movie as intelligent as it is insightful. Saulnier’s follow-up is smart and smartly made but lacks the intelligence of the former. Maybe because the cycle of violence perpetrated in Blue Ruin was a familial one? There, ordinary people made less than ordinary decisions. In Green Room, the violence is perpetrated by a well-organized and, evidently, well-connected Northeastern sect of the Aryan Nation. These people are far from ordinary, though some ordinary folks slip in: Macon Blair is excellent as Gabe, Darcy’s (Patrick Stewart) wide-eyed second-in-command. He brings heart to a heartless world and a sense that there is more out there.
But it is too little. Not even the whimper of a wounded dog can humanize some characters, no matter how cheap the sentiment might be.
Green Room (2015)
Written and directed by: Jeremy Saulnier
Produced by: Neil Kopp, Victor Moyers, Anish Savjani
Starring: Anton Yelchin, Joe Cole, Alia Shawkat, Callum Turner, David W. Thompson, Mark Webber, Macon Blair, Imogen Poots, Patrick Stewart
A24, Rated R, Running time 95 minutes, Opens April 29, 2016