NOTE: This is a reprint of my review from the Sundance Film Festival. Green Room opens here in DC on April 22nd.
A couple of years ago Jeremy Saulnier and his buddy Macon Blair set the genre world on fire with Blue Ruin, a tough little revenge thriller that showed a ton of promise. While the brutality and realism of it stood out, what made that film so great was its humanity. The lead character was a regular guy, someone we could relate to as he fumbled his way through one heinous act after another. With the equally vicious Green Room Saulnier sets his sights on the invasion flick, an Assault on Precint 13-style barnburner that retains the personal character moments that are quickly becoming the filmmaker's trademark.
The premise is simple: failing punk rock band The Ain't Rights, featuring Tiger (Callum Turner), guitarist Sam (Alia Shawkat), bassist Pat (Anton Yelchin), and drummer Reece (Joe Cole), get stiffed on a gig but are clued in to another one down in Portland. Once arriving they quickly come to realize that much of the rowdy, bald-headed clientele are neo-Nazi skinheads. The club's manager, David (Blair), seems like an alright guy but some others seem ready for a fight. With tensions already high and the band ready to just collect their cash and jet, they accidentally stumble on a girl's murder in the green room. Obviously, they can't be allowed to just leave, and they're hold up in the room with the victim's best friend, Amber (Imogen Poots), their hostage Big Justin (Eric Edelstein), and a loaded gun with only a handful of bullets.
Bullets, teeth, blades, blood gets spilled in ways that are incredibly tough to watch, and DP Sean Porter captures it in grisly fashion. Visually and thematically Saulnier is treading on familiar ground, but he's one of the best at it right now. He keeps finding new, fresh ways to explore violence, and Green Room is easily one of the best genre films in a long time.
Rating: 4 out of 5