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Sleeper of the Week: ‘Green Room’

Sleeper of the Week: 'Green Room'

Sleeper of the Week takes a film that only few critics have seen and shines some light on it.

“Green Room”
Dir: Jeremy Saulnier
Criticwire Average: A-

The violent, visceral, and utterly awesome “Green Room” captures a nasty punks vs. skinheads battle royale in the backwoods of Oregon. After the DIY hardcore group The Ain’t Rights (Anton Yelchin, Alia Shawkat, Callum Turner, Joe Cole) take a replacement gig at a skinhead venue, they accidentally witness a murder and are taken hostage by a white supremacist group led by Darcy (Patrick Stewart). Soon the underdog punks and the murder victim’s friend (Imogen Poots) have to fight their way out while the white supremacist devise a way to contain the situation. Following in the tradition of John Carpenter and Sam Peckinpah, director Jeremy Saulnier constructs one of the best films of the year by using a bare-bones premise to deliver classic genre thrills as well as a subtle examination of how hatred flourishes in secret at the expense of countless innocents. “Green Room” opens in New York and L.A. today, it expands to Austin, Boston, Chicago, Portland, Seattle, San Francisco, and Washington D.C. next week, and then opens everywhere on April 29th. Be sure to see it, and then get back to me about your desert island band.

More thoughts from the Criticwire Network:

A.A. Dowd, The A.V. Club

Green Room” is a rare gift from the genre gods: a nasty, punk-as-fuck midnight movie made by a genuine artist, a filmmaker with a great eye and a true understanding of the people and places he’s splattering in viscera. His name is Jeremy Saulnier, and his last film, the similarly color-coded “Blue Ruin,” was an eccentric riff on the revenge thriller, featuring a soft-spoken, sad-eyed vagrant in the Charles Bronson role. “Green Room,” about a traveling hardcore band caught in a life-and-death standoff with white supremacists, is even better, even bloodier, even more grimly amusing than its predecessor. In clichéd rock-journalism parlance, it’s a bastard lovechild, what you might get if you could somehow mate one of Kelly Reichardt’s portraits of life on the Oregon fringe with one of John Carpenter’s castle-siege action vehicles. Read more.

Bilge Ebiri, The Village Voice

Anyway, the blood flows, the limbs fly, the bodies drop, and our hardcore poser heroes have to learn to get in touch with their inner berserkers. So does the movie, though its madness is a controlled one. Can a film be both graphic and subtle? Saulnier, who also made the moody, intense revenge drama “Blue Ruin,” seems determined to pull it off. When it comes to violence — a head blown off, a throat sliced open, a dog-mauling — he isn’t content just to suggest. No, he most definitely shows, but just enough to freak us out, before pulling back. And his great eye finds elegance in just about any situation, no matter how grisly. As a result, we watch “Green Room” with the sense that anything can and will happen — that no character or body part is safe, that no horrific plot development is off the table — but with the reassurance that the filmmaker will never abandon us. This is the control of a master manipulator, and it’s riveting. Read more.

Guy Lodge, Variety

This punched-up cat-and-mouse game is luridly entertaining for a stretch, though the fun begins to pall at the 60-minute mark, as it becomes clear that no new principals or obstacles are arriving to shift the stakes of what, beneath the extremist trappings, more or less amounts to a simple house-of-horrors narrative. While “Blue Ruin” uncovered seethingly complex human impulse and psychological subtext under its elemental revenge tale, “Green Room” leaves no such subliminal resonance when the ride is over. While played with sparky gumption by the actors, the characters here are largely cyphers — as, indeed, is Stewart’s chief villain, who’s given markedly short shrift in the film’s latter half. At least Poots, with her frenzied physicality and pointed line readings, suggests an inner life for her character beyond the claustrophobic confines of this story, though she’s hardly an open book. Read more.

A.O. Scott, The New York Times

Once the violence starts, “Green Room” settles into horror movie logic, becoming steadily more gruesome and less terrifying as the body count grows. You know some people are going to die, and figuring out who and in what order feels more like a brainteaser than like a matter of deep moral or emotional concern. Which is cool and everything. Mr. Saulnier certainly could have done more, but he succeeds perfectly well within the limited terms he has set for himself. When the situation looks especially desperate, Pat offers a lesson drawn from a long-ago paintball match, the point of which is that the only way to defeat grimly determined professional warriors is with a defiantly playful, anarchic spirit. That’s a canonical punk-rock attitude, of course, even if it isn’t quite an adequate response to hate-based politics. Darcy likes to tell his young followers that “it’s not a party; it’s a movement.” But there’s no reason to take him seriously. Read more.

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