Thursday, June 30, 2016

'Green Room' Has the Premise of a Genre Exploitation Film but Actually Delivers the Thrills in a Smart Way

Green Room is the final film to be released that Anton Yelchin starred in before a freak accident killed him earlier this June (he’s also in a few more films set for posthumous releases, most prominently Star Trek Beyond).  Yelchin is – was – one of the currently working actors I like.  I love his portrayal of Odd Thomas (one of my most favorite fictional characters ever).  I also enjoyed him as Chekov in the nu-Star Trek movies, and as the unlikely vampire hunter Charley Brewster in the Fright Night remake.  I proceeded to watch Green Room primarily for the sake of seeing one of his final film appearances.  Plus, the buzz is that it’s actually quite good.

The film tells the story of a down-on-their-luck punk rock band – consisting of Pat (Anton Yelchin), Sam (Alia Shawkat), Reece (Joe Cole), and Tiger (Callum Turner) – that gets booked to play a gig at an isolated, dilapidated bar frequented by skinheads and other white supremacist-type thugs.  After finishing their set, the band is about to leave when they witness a horrible crime that they aren’t supposed to see.  They next find themselves trapped backstage fighting for their lives against a neo-Nazi gang led by Darcy (Sir Patrick Stewart), the ruthless owner of the bar.
The movie has the premise of an exploitation horror film, but it turns out being genuinely gripping and intelligent.  It’s brutal and gritty, with some dark humor sprinkled on it.  The narrative is smart and unpredictable, which the direction steered with solid tension building and firm vision.  Kudos to writer/director Jeremy Saulnier.

The cast all delivered strong performances.  Yelchin is notably believable in conveying the terrified, shaken emotions required by his character.  But most magnetic of all is, of course, Sir Patrick Stewart.  His role in the movie is somewhat unexpected from an actor of his caliber and reputation, but he killed it.  He’s sinister and despicable, but there’s still has an air of classiness in him.

Green Room is a good example that the thrills from a small production and a small-scale setup don’t necessarily need to be cheap.  It shows that – even with modest resources and a standard premise – a clever script, committed actors, and brilliant direction are the essential requirements for a great horror-thriller.

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