On the road and desperate for work, an indie punk metal band take a gig at a shady bar in backwoods America. Sounds rough? Even worse, it’s a bar run and populated entirely by violent neo-Nazis. Even worse than that – the band are unlucky enough to witness a murder in the bar’s green room, leaving them trapped and at the mercy of a pub full of furious Nazis determined to shut the poor kids up for good. Worst of all, they’re pit against Patrick Stewart, in a mode of evil we haven’t seen since his Mel Gibson conspiracy theorist torturing days.
Locking themselves backstage with only a burly, terrifying bouncer and the murder victim’s friend for company, the besieged bandmates face the fight of their lives. Of the kids, it’s Anton Yelchin, Imogen Poots and Alia Shawkat (Arrested Development!) you’re most likely to recognise, so young and wide-eyed that you’ll immediately sympathise with their plight. Stewart (skin) heads off the villains, clearly relishing a role which lets him unleash all of his Shakespearian malice and threat. Quiet yet commanding, it’s a performance to savour, reminding us how scary the man can be when not admonishing mutants or being the best thing on Seth MacFarlane projects.
Even if he weren’t in it though, Green Room would be a treat. It’s a brutal, masterfully tense thriller, its shocking bouts of bloody violence offset against its nerve-jangling stand-offs and cataclysmic aftermaths. Few punches are pulled in depicting the film’s various brutalities, made all the more upsetting for our burgeoning fondness towards the characters and the growing certainty that it can’t end well for any of them. Thankfully, it’s funny too; by no means a comedy horror, but (much like writer/director Jeremy Saulnier’s previous work, Blue Ruin and Murder Party) utilising a slick, sick gallows humour, that prevents it from getting too bogged down in misery.
Its setting will win Green Room many fans also, the sweaty punk rocker energy palpable and reminiscent of From Dusk Till Dawn’s Titty Twister. Add to that the action of Dog Soldiers, the (American) skinhead bovver boots of This is England and the backwoods rural Nazis of (an American) Frontiers. None of this is massively original - its story and character beats remaining fairly predictable to the end - but the writing, performances and sheer bravado of it all more than makes up for its moments of cliché.
Like being trapped in a mosh pit full of demented punk rockers, Green Room will kick your ass, leaving you beaten, changed and a little bit traumatised. You’ll have had a hell of a time, though.
GREEN ROOM / CERT: 18 / DIRECTOR & SCREENPLAY: JEREMY SAULNIER / STARRING: ANTON YELCHIN, PATRICK STEWART, IMOGEN POOTS, ALIA SHAWKAT, JOE COLE / RELEASE DATE: 13TH MAY