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Dustin Putman

2016 Sundance Film Festival
Green Room  (2016)
2½ Stars
Directed by Jeremy Saulnier.
Cast: Anton Yelchin, Imogen Poots, Alia Shawkat, Joe Cole, Callum Turner, Mark Webber, Patrick Stewart, Macon Blair, Kai Lennox, Eric Edelstein.
2016 – 95 minutes
Rated: Rated R (for strong brutal graphic violence, gory images, language and some drug content).
Reviewed at the 2016 Sundance Film Festival by Dustin Putman for, January 27, 2016.
A touring punk rock band get far more than they bargained for when they accept a sketchy gig in Oregon in "Green Room," writer-director Jeremy Saulnier's tensely constructed if not quite as fresh follow-up to 2014's "Blue Ruin." The Arlington-based Ain't Rights consist of bassist Pat (Anton Yelchin), lead singer Tiger (Callum Turner), guitarist Sam (Alia Shawkat) and drummer Reece (Joe Cole). In hopes of earning the money needed to make their way home, the group agree to perform at a backwoods venue outside of Portland. The staff and clientele are overrun with neo-Nazi skinheads, but they intend to perform and take the money and run. A snag in their plan arrives when they inadvertently walk in on the murdered body of an Asian woman in the green room. The club employees, all of them under firm orders from gang leader Darcy Banker (Patrick Stewart), are not about to let Pat, his friends, or the victim's frightened friend Amber (Imogen Poots) walk away with their lives.

"Green Room" is a tautly wound, suitably grimy thriller shot and edited with an almost jarring clarity and cohesion. Saulnier and cinematographer Sean Porter forge a classy technical path railing against the tired 21st-century era of shaky camerawork and ADD editing. Their narrative unravels almost as if in real time, sending the nice-guy punk protagonists (posers who admit their desert island music choices would be Prince and Simon & Garfunkel) into a hellish ordeal that will test not only their will to survive, but also their own morality and capacity for violence. If the narrative beats feel overly familiar and characters are thinly developed (little is learned about any of them, and Tiger and Reece might as well be interchangeable), Saulnier is conscientious to portray their humanity—even that of the villains, many whom regret their actions and realize they are in over their heads. A film of poisonous lineages and the evil that good men and beasts learn, "Green Room" has something more to say beyond being a bloodily decisive genre work.
© 2016 by Dustin Putman
Dustin Putman

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