Films | Review | Jeremy Saulnier's Green Room (2015)
A little out of what is my usual comfort zone with films, Green Room offers a non-committal look at Nazism in the modern day, combined with somewhat excessive violence, punk rock, and Patrick Stewart. My nostalgic love for Patrick Stewart as Captain Jean-Luc Picard in Star Trek, plus my current slight obsession for any film that can even mildly be categorised as horror, made this a must-see. I wasn't left disappointed, although I wouldn't say I was left satisfied either. Spoilers after the jump.
Green Room started off as just plain enjoyable for me; from the get go I realised it was probably going to be a slow burn as the first half became about developing the main characters in the band and their relationships with each other. I really appreciated this, as so often you're not truly given the opportunity to fully empathise with characters in horror films. Usually you're too busy screaming at the TV that they're a stupid idiot. Wait, just me?
I like Alia Shawkat in general anyway, and I'm going to ignore the fact that I only just learnt her name and called her Maeby until literally this second, and am probably still going to. She was great in Arrested Development and I loved her in this and Final Girls, all her characters have the perfect level of sass. I'm not going to ignore that Anton Yelchin stars in Green Room, because obviously rest in peace. He's pretty good, although his appearance always lent him to weedier characters, with his character Pat as no exception. I'd talk about Imogen Poots, but I've always felt that her performances are a bit meh. No exception for her either here.
This goes from slow burn to adrenalin rush real quick, but then takes on a stop-start style of action that I just didn't appreciate. I wasn't expecting non-stop hacking and slashing, but the amount of time inbetween the points of action was just too long. It was honestly dull at times as the two groups (punk bank vs white supremacists) took breaks to assess their wounded, the killed, and form plans, etc. While most of the rest parts were shockingly boring, some parts were great and tense, such as when the police arrived to investigate, and Stewart had two of the party's followers stab each other in order to do time like, for the cause, or whatever. Payment and I guess honour and respect in exchange for jail time, yeah fair deal, sign me the fuck up. Idiots.
But yeah, the slow burn is amazing, and the tension builds around the young punk band the Ain't Rights, culminating in their cover of the Dead Kennedys's song "Nazi Punks Fuck Off" at the nazi bar as their show opener. After that, it's a little bit of a let down. When Pat discovers the dead girl in the green room and it all looks like it's going to kick off, that's actually when it started disappointing me - when the action started.
There just wasn't enough action, to be honest; as I said before it all came in fits and starts, and then it overcompensated with over-aggressiveness before going back to a stall. It overdid the gore aspect each and every time for I guess shock value, and then reset to both groups huddling and worrying, usually with another person dead, like clockwork. There's no real exposition either; one thing I would have loved to learn about were the red laces boys, the ones that Stewart's character called upon to try to kill the band after he tricked them into opening the door to the green room. Why did they wear red laces? Why did red laces signify that they were the go-to knifers of the nazi gang? How did one graduate to become a red lacer, or was it actually almost a demotion, a sign of being a soldier grunt? Or a sign of true devotion to Banker (Stewart) as a leader and the party itself? I'd watch a fucking origins story on the red laces boys, but they were sadly hideously under-utilised in Green Room, only making one solid appearance where they all nearly hacked off Pat's arm.
I'll mention two more things before I sign off, and that's this: Stewart was a peculiar choice, and dogs should not have been included. For the dogs part, Green Room included the nazis having German attack dogs, with the dogs essentially ripping the throat out of Tiger, the lead singer. For starters, this is supposed to be a tense thriller about escaping Nazis, not random ass petty criminals or trespassers getting taken down by dogs. I don't care if they mauled a dude's throat out, cut the dogs, they're not needed and I just can't empathise with a dog getting killed even out of self-defence. It just makes me feel shitty and hello, facing up against Nazis in modern times and the protagonists are a heavy punk rock band? That's a fucking awesome plot, and it's shameful how much the film is not about that.
Now, the other part: Stewart was just a bad choice. I love him, I made sure to preface this post with that statement, but he just wasn't a good fit for the role. Banker should have been more sly, I feel; he's a leader who gets things done by use of his followers, and should have been played in a more manipulative and silver-tongued way. Either that, or hulking and terrifying, like Brent Werzner, who committed the original murder that started the ball rolling on the killing spree. I understand that when it comes to casting evil leaders, the typical choice is someone smart and level-headed, with the aggressive, less-intelligent guys on leashes, but Stewart just doesn't quite fit that role. He's a triangle trying to go into a square-shaped hole, because you can technically fit him in there but he doesn't fill it. Disappointing in terms of a viewer, and a Stewart fan.
Side note: fuck Imogen Poots. Her character pissed me off. Meek and filled with wide-eyed wonder yet nonchalantly slices open Big Justin's belly like he's a goddamn Tauntaun and she needs to get out of a blizzard. Fuck off. Contradictory and unnecessary from start to finish, not enough character development or exposition to sympathise with her character, and as she survives the whole ordeal with Pat but is still an asshole to him, I was just like, why. Seriously, why. Why is she in this, and why does she get to survive? She was there fucking willingly.
I wish Maeby or Tiger had made it to the end. Fuck Poots.