Cinematic Releases: Green Room

Andrew reviews the hotly anticipated follow up to Blue Ruin.

Every few years or so a veteran actor is given the keys to show off to viewers a shade of their personality not seen in the movies before.  Whether it is Ben Kingsley in Sexy Beast, Albert Brooks in Drive, or Matthew McConaughey in Killer Joe, the shared trait among all three performances is that the charming and likeable actors all displayed a darker side than we were used to seeing.  With Blue Ruin writer-director Jeremy Saulnier's ultraviolent backwoods thriller about a fledgling garage punk rock band who find themselves at the mercy of dangerous Neo-Nazi skinheads, now it is British actor Patrick Stewart's turn to play a brutal, dangerous and evil character and in so doing gives a pitch perfect performance in a wholly unlikely bit of casting.  He's splendid in the role and whatever worldly charms Stewart's Captain Jean-Luc Picard brought to the table are completely out the window here. 

Star Trek: The Next Next Generation starring bad asses.

Continuing the themes and crossover casting in Blue Ruin, Green Room at first tricks you into thinking it's a coming of age punk rocker drama ala SLC Punk! but then quickly turns into Sam Peckinpah's Straw Dogs with it's portrait of ordinary everymen driven by extreme situations to brutal violence.  The aim isn't so much about the outcome as it is about Saulnier turning his cameras on that moment where ordinary people come to terms with their violent side when boxed into a corner.   It is hard, unforgiving, graphic, ultraviolent and like Blue Ruin brilliantly understated, making the horrific situations all the more believable and real.  

Pinterest Google+ StumbleUpon Twitter Reddit Facebook

Aiding Stewart's powerhouse performance is a strong ensemble cast including Anton Yelchin, Imogen Poots, and Blue Ruin star Macon Blair.   Everyone here is splendid and you find yourself caring more and more about the characters as the dark shadows close in on everyone, with neither the heroes nor the villians getting away clean.  As with Blue Ruin, the film is flavored by a unique mixture of jet black humor, long, quiet passages of tension, judiciously occasional use of ambient music and unpredictable outbursts of extreme violence.  Unlike the aforementioned film however, Green Room does tell viewers immediately what kind of film they bought a ticket for, lulling us into a false sense of security before dropping the gavel.  Exceedingly simply, down and dirty and unflinchingly graphic with many mutilations, many scenes of throats being ripped out by pit bulls, extended shots of blood pouring copiously from bullet wounds and a truly cringe inducing scene where a man's sliced up arm is hastily dressed with duct tape, Green Room will absolutely burrow itself beneath your skin.  Brilliantly photographed with many wide and aerial vistas of the backwoods, punctuated by sharp editing not felt since the glory days of William Friedkin, the film is a technically proficient, tightly bound and executed shocker which arguably pushes the limits of graphic R rated ultraviolence further than Quentin Tarantino who recently endorsed the film.  For those expecting an action packed thriller, they are in for something closer to Denis Villeneuve's methodically slow paced Prisoners which took it's sweet old time before delivering the punches and slashing.  

I have a small penis so I carry this gun.
It makes me feel like a man.
Are you impressed?
It goes without saying this masterfully brutal shockfest is not for everyone.  So tense is the drama and so extreme is the ultraviolence it is the kind of film likely to eject many horrified viewers from their seats.  Having had abdominal surgery in February of last year, the sight of an obese man's abdomen sliced open neatly across the belly button on up was not an image I was prepared to deal with and my memory of it is still vivid and unshakable.  As a hard nosed, claustrophobic thriller ala Panic Room and even The Petrified Forest, Green Room more than delivers and will satisfy even the most staunch consumers of this kind of unforgiving tapestry of blood and grue.  Not for the squeamish but for those who are tired of the overblown and heightened reality of obnoxious trash like London Has Fallen, Green Room is a refreshing dose of hard and heavy reality which has the capacity to sucker punch you and kick you while you're down, leaving you the viewer feeling battered yet exhilarated for taking the deadly ride into Hell.  For a fan of extreme and often brutal cinema like myself, I thought it was easily one of the year's best roller coasters which will pull the rug out from under you and drag you down into the dank and dirty basement covered in entrails.  It won't be easy but trust me, Green Room is worth every cut, scab, bruise and severed limb it will leave you with.


- Andrew Kotwicki