Green Room (2016)

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“Remember, this is a movement. Not a party.”

Fear is a hard concept to define outside of physical responses. Wide eyes, sweaty palms, clenched teeth, racing hearts. They’re all unsummoned reactions from deep down in the subconscious. And that’s ultimately what makes Green Room such an unnerving moviegoing experience. Despite its uninvolving and largely surface level story, the film somehow excavates a pit of anxiety out of your head instead of your heart. Green Room isn’t a perfect or complete film either. What it can be called though is a wake-up shot of B-movie adrenaline accommodating just a dash of the necessary human components. The edge of your seat moments outnumber the lulls.

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The movie has lots of little details that matter when it comes to the punk agenda versus a strict right-wing establishment. Following a band called “The Ain’t Rights,” we see the dirt broke quartet hesitantly pull up to a gig at a grimy skinhead bar. “The Aren’t Rights” is listed on the quick loading plastic sign, setting up an unrest from the start. What comes before then isn’t all that significant, although if it does factor into slapdash plotlines later on. They drink, siphon gas for trips, are interviewed by a low-level music enthusiast. Green Room’s opening third shows us the main characters despite them not being properly introduced, sort of how you’d imagine meeting someone at a neo-nazi backwoods watering hole. In that regard, the film has the effect that it is supposed to achieve, all while existing within strictly small, content, quartered off boundaries. It didn’t need to go bigger in scope; it needed to go broader in context.

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This is an ensemble piece, so par the course, people are given different values and weight. I’ll save you the sizable amount of names and descriptions by saying that they’re all part of a collective, each person clearly driven in one direction or other. None of the performers stand-out all that much either because director Jeremy Saulnier doesn’t waste time indulging the camera space. He has a story, knows the shots he wants to use, and goes about it as concisely as possible. A puppeteer of sorts, strings pulled purposefully and precisely. Saulnier capably directs the palpable tension, apparent unease, shattered psyches. However, it’s all plainly missing the kind of primitive details to serve as a tourniquet for the various human elements. Being distanced is one thing; Green Room feels intentionally detached.

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Eerily similar to Saulnier’s previous film Blue Ruin – a masterclass in revenge thrillers (on Netflix…add it to your queue) – Green Room balances dark humor with calculated immorality. Where it does stumble though is in the cursory setup. There is no anchor to chart the course towards the guns a blazing finale, even if it does suggest so later on. These people are drifters, mere facial composites that Saulnier issues us to service the plot. Green Room doesn’t make its way under your skin; it sits there, rabid, slicing away at the surface with a dull box-cutter. The cuts shock and draw blood, but they aren’t deadly wounds because there is no empathy for those being hunted. Try to recall their names after all is said and done…it’s unsurprisingly difficult. The irrepressible fear always dwells front and center, yet the personalities of these characters are kept in check and in hiding.

 “Let him bleed.”

Rating: 3.5 out of 5

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