Director: Jeremy Saulnier
Writer: Jeremy Saulnier
Cinematographer: Sean Porter
Producer: Neil Kopp, Victor Moyers, and Anish Savjani
by Jon Cvack
Green Room involves a Oregonian punk band The Ain’t Rights whose gig falls through, leaving them desperate for an alternative. They’re directed to a isolated Neo-Nazi compound in the middle of the woods; as though adding a bit of fan fiction to American History X’s Nazi warehouse and the various punk shows operating in the background. Torn between the money and their personal politics, the band decides to play the show, opening with The Dead Kennedys “Nazi Punks Fuck Off”, which doesn’t go all that well in the room full of skinheads.
The band is ready to head off when lead guitarist Pat (Anton Yelchnin) forgets his cell phone, leading him back to the green room where he sees a girl stabbed to death on the floor. Ready to rush out and call the police, the bouncers keep him inside, forcing the band to return, leaving them all trapped inside...the Green Room.
The punk band was well constructed, appearing believable even with the familiar faces, complete with all the desperation and determination any aspiring band possesses. I was surprised to discover that Anton Yelchnin actually died in a freak accident shortly after filming, when his car’s emergency brake slipped on a hill, pinning him against a wall, crushing his lungs in the process. He puts on such a great performance, never drifting too far from his core essence seen in Alpha Dog or Charlie Bennett, appearing as the dorky dude who discovered punk music in college, now unrecognizable by his former high school classmates. As Yelchnin often accomplished in his few roles, his character speaks volumes without saying a word, deliberating each move before its made, allowing us to believe that whatever the choice it was carefully decided.
I also enjoyed seeing Alia Shawkat from Arrested Development playing the lead guitarist, forgetting her phone and setting off the entire story. Shawkat is exactly what Hollywood needs more of, playing a real and accessible female lead; a character that could take on the role of any man without distraction. I don’t think there simply needs to be more roles for women, but more roles for women that aren’t the most attractive figures in the world. Shawkat serves a great example of how powerful a role could be with limited material provided. I haven’t seen much of Arrested Development, though enough to know that Shawkat diverges from her normal character. I was sad to see her get killed off, of course replaced by the far more beautiful Imogen Poots, though I think this could have been flipped and more effective.
A large selling point of this film was the fact that Patrick Stewart played the compound’s owner and head Nazi, Darcy Banker, and I have to say this was fairly disappointing. I’m not sure if it’s Stewart’s association with charm and Star Trek, or that the character didn’t have much meat to chew into, but I was left confused. It seemed like the only shock was that Patrick Stewart was playing a Neo-Nazi, rather than anything he actually did or said.
And that leads to the larger problem I had with the story, in that I was simply left wanting more. I appreciated the thrills and chills, with well designed and unique characters. I just wanted more from the story. It was so plot heavy, as though the film was greenlit from logline alone - a punk band gets trapped at a Neo-Nazi compound, comes across a dead body, and has to fight their way out. That’s pretty much it. There were so many avenues never explored, failing to tap into the who, what, why, where, when. I assume the easy refute is that none of that mattered, and if I wanted a simple story I guess I could agree. Except seeing a lot of untapped talent from Saulnier, who seems to rely more on action and thrills than ensuring that the moments in between - when offered - are filled with interesting exchanges that can help you understand the story and learn more about the characters. As mentioned, the entire compound reminded me of American History X that I couldn’t help feeling deprived of info; namely, about Darcy Banker, and how/why/when a British man made it out to the Pacific Northwest in order to operate a Nazi Bar and Music Venue. It leaves far too much to the imagination.
BELOW: Nazi Punks
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