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Written and directed by Jeremy Saulnier, Green Room begins in a cornfield. A hardcore band called The Ain't Rights ran out of gas and, as the driver fell asleep, drifted off the road. The four members, Pat (Anton Yelchin), Sam (Alia Shawkat), Reece (Joe Cole), and Tiger (Callum Turner), are burnt out but the tour is coming to a close. The siphon some gas and make it to a small Oregon town where they meet up with Tad (David W. Thompson). He tells them that they show they were supposed to play isn't happening anymore, but not to worry, he's booked them another gig. When that earns each band member a whole six dollars, Tad tells them he can make a call to his cousin and get them a show tomorrow, but he warns them… it's a really right wing crowd. Or ultra-left wing, depending on how you look at it. Regardless, they'd be playing with a bunch of skinheads, some of whom have white supremacist leanings.
They're not really happy about it but they need the money and so they agree to do the show. They're greeted somewhat suspiciously upon their arrival but they play the show without any real problems, even working a cover of a certain Dead Kennedy's song into the mix without getting themselves killed. They're paid and about to go on their way when one of them realizes they've left their phone in the venue's green room. Upon going back to get it, they wind up witnessing a murder and it's all downhill from there, especially once the owner, Darcy (Patrick Stewart), shows up… he doesn't want any witnesses, so that means the band are in trouble and so too is the victim's friend, a skinhead girl named Amber (Iomgen Poots).
And we'll leave it at that. The less you know about how the story plays out going into this one, the better.
Shot on location in and around Portland, Oregon this movie does a great job of really isolating the action. Aside from the opening scenes involving Tad, pretty much the whole thing takes place at the venue. But the venue is more of a compound in certain ways. It's out in the middle of nowhere and there's no marquee or lights to draw your attention. As the movie progresses, you realize that there's a reason for that outside of the Neo-Nazi affiliations but regardless, it makes for a pretty desolate spot for all of this to happen in. So when it hits the fan for the members of The Ain't Rights, they don't really have anyone that they can turn to for help. They're without their phones and there isn't anyone around for miles to come to their rescue. They rightly don't trust anyone and have no choice but to deal with this themselves. It's a smart setup and Saulnier really runs with it. The tension comes fast and hard and once the basic plot is established, it doesn't really let up at all until the end credits hit the screen.
The cast here are great. Anton Yelchin (may he rest in peace) is in very fine form here. His character is likeable and believable and he's entirely convincing in the part. Joe Cole and Callum Turner follow suit. They too look the part, not just during the drama and the action and the horror sequences that make up the movie but even during the short stints when the band plays live. Arrested Development fans may need a few minutes to adjust to seeing Alia Shawkat here but once those few minutes pass, yeah, she's good too. Imogen Poots is also strong. The makeup and wardrobe departments did a good job of making her, and the rest of the skinhead characters in the movie, look pretty authentic. Patrick Stewart's role is more of a supporting part but he is, in a word, excellent. It's interesting to see him cast against type here and he does a great job of playing his part without ever overdoing it or playing towards clichés, which would have been easy to do here. It's interesting to watch him work in front of the camera as his character goes about manipulating most of those who are around him, who clearly look up to him. At one point he tells the crowd ‘This is a movement, not a party' so you know he's not only taking his politics seriously but encouraging the rest of the skinheads to do the same. Special mention is also due for Macon Blair (who worked with the director on his two earlier features, Murder Party and Blue Ruin) in his supporting role as Gabe, one of the skinheads in charge of making sure things run properly at the venue. It's a part that's easy to look past but he's really good here.
More character development might have fleshed things out a little more effectively. There are some times where you wonder who these people are as the movie is so quickly paced. Aside from that, however, this is seriously tense (and at times shocking violent) stuff. The camera work is great, it's kinetic enough to feel energetic but not so overdone as to take away from the story at hand. Throw in a great soundtrack and use of some pretty identifiable punk/hardcore/metal tracks (it's more fun to listen for them yourself than to read them listed here) and a lot of authentic grit and grime (pay attention to the posters and stickers plastered all over the please) and this turns out really well.The Blu-ray:
The AVC encoded 1080p high definition transfer is framed at 2.40.1 and it looks very good, all things considered. Although this is a very dark film in terms of its color scheme, the well encoded disc shows very accurate color reproduction and strong black levels throughout. Detail will vary a bit from one shot to the next (for example the flurry of movement in the pit in front of the stage doesn't show what a static close up shot does, obviously) but it is typically very strong. Contrast is spot on and skin tones look good. The picture itself is pristine, just as clean and clear as you'd expect from a brand new feature like this. There are no problems with any compression artifacts or edge enhancement. There's nothing to complain about here, this is a strong transfer from start to finish.Sound:
The English language DTS-HD 5.1 Master Audio mix is also very good. Optional subtitles are provided in English SDH and Spanish. This is quite an immersive and impressive mix, one that really opens up during key moments in the film (whenever live music is involved, for example) to envelope you. The action scenes use the surround channels really nicely to help build atmosphere and suspense and the effects have nice punch to them (there's one gun shot in particular that really hits hard). There are no issues with hiss or distortion here, dialogue is nice and clear and properly balanced throughout the duration of the film.Extras:
Extras start off with a commentary track from director Jeremy Saulnier, who does a really great job of explaining what went into making this picture. He talks about his inspiration for the film, where the idea originally came from, then goes on to talk about some of the changes that were made over time. He details the casting, sharing his admiration for what each performer was able to bring to the movie, and he also talks about shooting out on location in and around Portland, Oregon. He also talks about the use of music in the film, the violence in the picture and some of the themes and ideas that it both exploits and explores. This is well paced and interesting. Saulnier is a smart, savvy, likeable guy and there's clearly a lot of passion and enthusiasm from him for this project.
Additionally the disc also includes a ten minute featurette called Into The Pit that is made up of cast and crew interview and behind the scenes footage. Saulnier talks about his inspiration for the film, casting the picture and what the principals brought to the picture. The cast members share some input into what it was like on set, the lousy weather that they dealt with and a fair bit more. We also hear from the cinematographer who talks about the challenges posed by shooting so much of the movie in some pretty confined spaces.
Aside from that we get a couple of trails for the feature, menus and chapter selection. Trailers for a few other Lionsgate properties play before those aforementioned menus load. The Blu-ray disc is housed inside a standard Blu-ray case along with a download code for a Digital HD version of the movie. A cardboard slipcover featuring identical cover art wraps everything up nicely.Final Thoughts:
Green Room is a ridiculously intense film! It's very well acted from all involved and Saulnier and his team do a great job crafting interesting characters as well as suspense. The movie hits hard and once the central plot is established, all bets are off. Lionsgate's Blu-ray release contains an interesting commentary and a short but equally interesting featurette as its main supplements. The transfer and lossless audio are both of great quality. Highly recommended.
Ian lives in NYC with his wife where he writes for DVD Talk, runs Rock! Shock! Pop!. He likes NYC a lot, even if it is expensive and loud.