Green Room


* 1/2

There is simply no reason to care about anything in Green Room, an exercise in nihilism that begins with grit before quickly devolving into unrestrained violence minus the empathy or substance to give it consequence. Written and directed by Jeremy Saulnier as a sophomore follow up to 2013’s much superior Blue Ruin, the new picture involves a down-on-its-luck punk band gigging around the Pacific Northwest to disastrous results.

Saulnier stumbles immediately in presenting “The Ain’t Rights” as uninteresting hair-triggers, including guitarist and de facto leader Pat (Anton Yelchin), Sam (Alia Shawkat), Reece (Joe Cole) and Tiger (Callum Turner), none of whom seem to like each other all that much. When the bandmates are screwed out of a gig and find themselves broke, hungry and siphoning gas to get home to Virgina, they sign up to play in a backwoods bar that turns out to be skinhead central.

Booed and intimidated through their set, they high-tail it offstage before three major contrivances set the idiot plot in motion: 1) Sam’s cell phone is left behind in the green room; 2) Retriever Pat witnesses the aftermath of a murder; and 3) Pat calls 911—in front of the killer. No joke.

Trapped in the green room with killer neo-Nazis at the door, the foursome tries to outwit their captors, including an oddly cast Patrick Stewart as the ringleader, a sort of latter-day Hitler incarnate, coolly dispatching orders with that classically trained baritone.

Also in the room is a white supremacist chick (Imogen Poots) who switches allegiances when survival is on the line, a beefy skinhead they’ve subdued, a cache of heroin and a bleeding corpse. Bodies are mutilated, killer Rottweilers do their business and no one is guaranteed to survive to the next scene.

About the only thing that works here is the look and feel, courtesy of production designer Ryan Smith and DP Sean Porter, who work overtime to create the hick environs defined by darkness and palpable rot, achieving a menacing, designer grime aesthetic of which David Fincher would be proud.

A friend recently assured me that Green Room was about “exploitation” and “economic injustice”—bollocks. What Green Room is about is the sight of a knife unexpectedly slicing an abdomen, dogs tearing into flesh and uninteresting heroes and villains that seem literally interchangeable. If any further evidence is needed that Saulnier regards the grim proceedings as throwaway nonsense, the film’s final joke should do just fine to convince.

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