Sunday, 8 May 2016

RAW REVIEW: GREEN ROOM

One of the biggest hits on the festival circuit so far this year is punk rock thriller, Green Room.
It blew audiences away and was quickly snapped up for international distribution, due to appear at UK cinemas from Friday 13 May.
I was lucky enough to be invited to a preview screening in London by the good folks at Fetch Publicity to help spread the word about a film that the studio is clearly pretty confident about. 
So, did it rock my socks off?
Or did it hit a bum note?
Read on...

GREEN ROOM (2015)



Dir: Jeremey Saulnier
Starring: Anton Yelchin, Alia Shawkat, Joe Cole, Callum Turner, David W. Thompson, Macon Blair, Imogen Poots, Brent Werner, Eric Edelstein, Mark Webber, Kai Lennox, Patrick Stewart

SPEEDY SYNOPSIS: I'll try not to spoil too much here but continue at your own risk.

Down on their luck indie punk band 'The Ain't Rights', are travelling across the United States on tour that is seeing them play a series of gigs for just a few dollars in front of apathetic crowds. After one last disastrous gig, band members shy Pat (Yelchin), sassy Sam (Shaukat), tough-guy Reece (Cole) and posturing frontman Tiger (Turner) decide that it's time to call it a day.
Local radio host Tad (Thompson), who feels guilty about the crap gig he organised, decides to arrange something a little better to help pay for their petrol to get home — a gig at an out of town roadhouse.
Upon arrival the band is escorted inside by bouncer Gabe (Blair) where they soon realise that the bar is the haunt of a hardcore group of neo-nazi skinheads. It seems a pretty rough establishment, but they need the money so the band performs, winning over the initially hostile crowd with their music.
After the gig they take their cash, but realise they've left a mobile phone in the green room and scoot back in to collect it — only to stumble across the body of a dead girl, her distraught friend Amber (Poots) and the clearly disturbed bar regular Werm (Werner).
Before things can get out of hand Gabe and fellow bouncer Big Justin (Edelstein) herd the band into the green room and take their phones.
Gabe, panicking, contacts the bars owner — skinhead gang leader Darcy (Stewart), who decides that the band have seen too much and must be taken care of accordingly.
However, the band and Amber, realising that something is wrong, are able to turn the tables on Big Justin, taking him hostage and locking the green room door.
What follows is a tense game of cat and mouse as The Ain't Rights try to work out how to get away from the confines of the green room before Darcy's thugs are able to make their own way in...



THE BEST BITS (mild spoiler warning): It's pretty tough to pick any one major strength for Green Room because, honestly, so much of it is absolutely great. Director Saulnier, who also helmed the cool as hell thriller Blue Ruin, just nails it. The film looks great, it oozes a kind of grungy punk coolness without ever feeling as if it's trying to be hip, while the pacing of his story ramps up the tension to almost unbearable levels.
It's almost a punk rock Assault on Precinct 13, but I think an argument can be made that this thriller may even top John Carpenter's siege masterpiece. I'm one of Carpenter's biggest fans, so trust me when I say that's an accolade that I'm not prepared to dispense freely!
The visuals have a striking, muted palette with bright neons that really pop from the dusty greens throughout. Cinematographer Sean Porter absolutely matches the tone of Saulnier's script making this a superb pairing.
This script is also one of the film's biggest strengths, with smart, sharp dialogue from our leads (with plenty of in-depth references to both punk rock and skinhead culture that may fly over the heads of some viewers) and some well-worked humour at times. However, this is not a story about laughs, it is one about tension and some quite visceral violence and horror.
The effects work when things gets bloody is absolutely topnotch and, while I don't want to spoil any of these moments, rest assured when the gore and violence does come it hits HARD. This is a film that is genuinely shocking at times, yet these moments never feel gratuitous, instead delivering intense payoffs to the mounting and often unbearable tension of the storyline. In truth, Green Room is not a horror film (not in the strictest sense), but the moments of gore in it are every bit as powerful, if not mores, then several so-called 'extreme' horror flicks.
Part of the reason that the violence hits so hard and that the dialogue resonates so well, is because Saulnier has assembled an absolutely topnotch cast. Yeltsin is wonderful and brings his character's arc to life superbly without it ever feeling forced or far-fetched.
Poots also delivers as the disturbed, tough survivor. The pair also have great chemistry and their interactions make for some of the finest scenes in the film.
Yeltsin's bandmates are also uniformly excellent, with each bringing a naturalistic delivery that totally had me buying into their performances.
On the other side of the green room door we have the national treasure that is the great Patrick Stewart, playing against type in role that exudes cold menace. While the burly, tattooed, jack-booted upstarts he has at his command are definitely intimidating (especially the seriously frightening Werner), it is his icy, no-nonsense control and ruthless, remorseless willingness to make terrible decisions that really chill the bones. He's excellent.
However, the skinheads aren't a simple gang of faceless stock villains — no, unlike the dangerous bikers in the aforementioned Assault of Precinct 13, these are actual characters with realistic motives. The likes of Blair and Webber effectively portray the confusion and doubt that comes with characters who are finally realising exactly what membership to organisations such as that run by Darcy REALLY means. There's some nuance to the plot, even if it is often difficult to pick up on thanks to the pulse-pounding thrills and action occurring onscreen.
If the intention of thriller is purely to thrill, then Green Room delivers tenfold.


THE WORST BITS (mild spoiler warning): As I said earlier Green Room is not a horror film. It seems to have been lumped in with the horror genre, thanks in no small part to its own marketing, but it is a THRILLER. If you want jump scares, sadistic torture and all the other trappings of the genre, be warned that Green Room is NOT that sort of film.
What it does deliver however, is plenty of gore and intensity. Perhaps that is why the film is struggling to be labelled, it's certainly far more intense and bloody than most thrillers, but never quite goes far enough to tip over into full-fledged horror.
A number of reviews have said that as visceral an experience as Green Room is, it doesn't have the emotional impact to match. I think this is true, as several characters don't really have enough to do before meeting their sudden and shockingly bloody ends, but then again, I don't think that was what Saulnier and his crew were aiming for.
It seems pretty clear that this film was meant to be a swift jolt of adrenaline, a rough, rocking slap around the face to get the heart thumping. This is absolutely what it achieves.
That's not to say that the film is soulless (far from it, there are some wonderful personal moments in among the stabbings, beatings and mutilations), but this is not Captain Corelli's Mandolin. Be warned.
Finally, I've heard some complaints about Stewart's role in the film. Sure, I can see how some people might be distracted by this larger, recognisable star among a sea of realistic performances, but I think that is doing a huge disservice to his performance. As a lot of skinhead culture originated here in Britain, I think taking an ageing Brit and making him the leader of the gang was a superb choice. This is no miscasting faux pas as I'm concerned.


THE VERDICT: When I write my 'best films of 2016' feature in December, I'm 100% sure that I'm going to be including Green Room. Cool, cruel and breathtakingly tense, THIS is what a thriller is meant to be. I wholeheartedly urge you to check it out when it's released next weekend.
In the meantime, you can visit the film's official Facebook page here.

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Until next time, I hope you enjoyed your stay.


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