Skip to main content

Now we’re all in the stew, for an impulsive act, for a selfish act, under my roof!

Green Room
(2015)

(SPOILERS – also for Bone Tomahawk) Jeremy Saulnier’s follow-up to the keenly studied Blue Ruin (what next, Red Rum?) lacks that picture’s depth of character and thematic epistle on the pitfalls of revenge, instead positioning itself as a very straightforward siege movie. Assault on Precinct 13, but with an Oregon bar as the police station, a punk band as the besieged, and a posse of rabid neo-Nazis as the remorseless menace. Saulnier imbues the proceedings with the tension-ratchetting precision of a master of the genre.


Although, some have speculated over just what genre that is. Horror or thriller? It’s a bit semantic, really. Substitute zombies or unstoppable, undead mariners for the neo-Nazis and, with all the stabbing, gouging and mutilation going on, it would happily fit into the horror genre (to be fair to Saulnier, he isn’t one to linger on the violence, but there’s no shortage of it). Saulnier also plays with the rules of survival like one who knows the horror genre backwards, picking off the protagonists in such an atypical manner that it’s unclear who is going to survive and how.


Macon Blair was the unlikely “hero” of Blue Ruin (returning here as a neo-Nazi lieutenant) and Saulnier shows a similar willingness to shrug off expectations in Green Room. When Anton Yelchin’s guitarist Pat has his hand nearly hacked off at the wrist as the standoff escalates, we suspect the writer-director may be pulling a Hitchcock number and dooming the presumed lead in the first (well, second) reel. That Pat turns out to be something of a survivor may conform to lead-actor type, but it’s very much along the lines of the also-incapacitated Patrick Wilson in horror-western Bone Tomahawk, where against the odds – straining credulity, if you want to be picky, although Green Room is a movie where there’s a discussion on paintballing not reflecting reality, with real guns, so Saulnier is at least embracing his fictions – the least likely protagonist pulls through.


Certainly, I had little doubt Joe Cole’s Reece, as the only band member who can take care of himself with any degree of proficiency, would end up dead, but the escalation of events, and even the flip markers defy definites; I was sure Saulnier put in the line about letting Reece bleed out because he expected us to expect him, unattended, to not be nearly as dead after all. He also brings in Mark Webber's Daniel as a saviour, only to summarily dispatch him five minutes later. And, against the odds – since its incredibly stupid, like baiting an angry, skinhead badger – it isn’t the anti-Nazi song (The Dead Kennedys’ Nazi Punks Fuck Off) they open their set with that leads to the subsequent deadly events.


And, if it’s become something of a cliché in recent years that the most survival-friendly character turns out to be female, Saulnier is less than reverent with dispatching band member Sam (Alie Shawkat, who is just as good here as in Arrested Development, such a sure, confident performer she really ought to be headlining movies). It’s left to Pat and Amber (Imogen Poots, too often marginalised in thankless roles, gives a wonderfully unsentimental, matter-of-fact performance) to make the best of dire straits. Saulnier repeats devices from Blue Ruin – characters are terrible shots, there’s surprising stoicism in the face of death – but in tone this is much more stripped-down and streamlined. While he indulges in occasional fancies – the mosh of Ain’t Rights’ performance becomes a slow-motion ballet set to classical strains, early interludes of montage between the band mates providing tonal build up for what is to come – there’s no side steps once he gets going.


Patrick Stewart, meanwhile, prevents the Nazis from becoming a mindless horde. If Blair’s Gabe is out of his depth, Stewart’s Darcy’s failing is over-confidence in his clean-up operation. To that extent, he strays into the Bond villain territory of leaving the scene while his victims get a chance to escape, but Stewart has rarely gotten his teeth into a baddie (Conspiracy Theory was a fairly standard type) and clearly relishes the opportunity; he’s actually not soporific for a change!


I don’t think Green Room represents Saulnier’s growth as a filmmaker, however, except maybe technically.  One might argue he’s chosen the easiest of real-life subjects, ones who have it coming, and combined with the embrace of cathartic bloodshed at the climax, it’s something of a step down after the anti-revenge realisation that concludes Blue Ruin. That said, it’s easy to see why this has been a feature of many a year-end best of list, and it underlines once again what a too-soon departure Yelchin’s was.


Agree? Disagree? Mildly or vehemently? Let me know in the comments below.

Comments

Popular posts from this blog

You know, I think you may have the delusion you’re still a police officer.

Heaven’s Prisoners (1996) (SPOILERS) At the time, it seemed Alec Baldwin was struggling desperately to find suitable star vehicles, and the public were having none of it. Such that, come 1997, he was playing second fiddle to Anthony Hopkins and Bruce Willis, and in no time at all had segued to the beefy supporting player we now know so well from numerous indistinguishable roles. That, and inane SNL appearances. But there was a window, post- being replaced by Harrison Ford as Jack Ryan, when he still had sufficient cachet to secure a series of bids for bona fide leading man status. Heaven’s Prisoners is the final such and probably the most interesting, even if it’s somewhat hobbled by having too much, rather than too little, story.

They wanted me back for a reason. I need to find out why.

Zack Snyder’s Justice League (2021) (SPOILERS) I wasn’t completely down on Joss Whedon’s Justice League (I had to check to remind myself Snyder retained the director credit), which may be partly why I’m not completely high on Zack Snyder’s. This gargantuan four-hour re-envisioning of Snyder’s original vision is aesthetically of a piece, which means its mercifully absent the jarring clash of Whedon’s sensibility with the Snyderverse’s grimdark. But it also means it doubles down on much that makes Snyder such an acquired taste, particularly when he has story input. The positive here is that Zack Snyder’s Justice League has the luxury of telling the undiluted, uncondensed story Snyder wanted to tell. The negative here is also that Zack Snyder’s Justice League has the luxury of telling the undiluted, uncondensed story Snyder wanted to tell (with some extra sprinkles on top). This is not a Watchmen , where the unexpurgated version was for the most part a feast.

Oh, I love funny exiting lines.

Alfred Hitchcock  Ranked: 26-1 The master's top tier ranked from worst to best. You can find 52-27 here .

I don't think this is the lightning you're looking for.

Meet Joe Black (1998) (SPOILERS) A much-maligned Brad Pitt fest, commonly accused of being interminable, ponderous, self-important and ridiculous. All of those charges may be valid, to a greater or lesser extent, but Meet Joe Black also manages to attain a certain splendour, in spite of its more wayward impulses. While it’s suggestive of a filmmaker – Martin Brest – believing his own hype after the awards success of (the middling) Scent of a Woman , this is a case where all that sumptuous better-half styling and fantasy lifestyle does succeed in achieving a degree of resonance. An undeniably indulgent movie, it’s one I’ve always had a soft spot for.

Now all we’ve got to do is die.

Without Remorse (2021) (SPOILERS) Without Remorse is an apt description of the unapologetic manner in which Amazon/Paramount have perpetrated this crime upon any audiences foolish enough to think there was any juice left in the Tom Clancy engine. There certainly shouldn’t have been, not after every attempt was made to run it dry in The Sum of All Our Fears and then the stupidly titled Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit . A solo movie of sometime Ryan chum John Clark’s exploits has been mooted awhile now, and two more inimitable incarnations were previously encountered in the forms of Willem Dafoe and Liev Schreiber. Like Chris Pine in Shadow Recruit , however, diminishing returns find Michael B Jordan receiving the short straw and lead one to the conclusion that, if Jordan is indeed a “star”, he’s having a hell of a job proving it.

Suspicions of destiny. We all have them. A deep, wordless knowledge that our time has come.

Damien: Omen II (1978) (SPOILERS) There’s an undercurrent of unfulfilled potential with the Omen series, an opportunity to explore the machinations of the Antichrist and his minions largely ignored in favour of Final Destination deaths every twenty minutes or so. Of the exploration there is, however, the better part is found in Damien: Omen II , where we’re privy to the parallel efforts of a twelve or thirteen-year-old Damien at military school and those of Thorn Industries. The natural home of the diabolical is, after all, big business. Consequently, while this sequel is much less slick than the original, it is also more engaging dramatically.

Don’t be ridiculous. Nobody loves a tax inspector. They’re beyond the pale!

Too Many Crooks (1959) (SPOILERS) The sixth of seven collaborations between producer-director Mario Zampi and writer Michael Pertwee, Too Many Crooks scores with a premise later utilised to big box-office effect in Ruthless People (1986). A gang of inept thieves kidnap the wife of absolute cad and bounder Billy Gordon (Terry-Thomas). Unfortunately for them, Gordon, being an absolute cad and bounder, sees it as a golden opportunity, rather enjoying his extra-marital carry ons and keeping all his cash from her, so he refuses to pay up. At which point Lucy Gordon (Brenda De Banzie) takes charge of the criminal crew and turns the tables.

A subterranean Loch Ness Monster?

Doctor Who The Silurians No, I’m not going to refer to The Silurians as Doctor Who and the Silurians . I’m going to refer to it as Doctor Who and the Eocenes . The Silurians plays a blinder. Because both this and Inferno know the secret of an extended – some might say overlong – story is to keep the plot moving, they barely drag at all and are consequently much fleeter of foot than many a four parter. Unlike Malcolm Hulke’s sequel The Sea Devils , The Silurians has more than enough plot and deals it out judiciously (the plague, when it comes, kicks the story up a gear at the precarious burn-out stage of a typical four-plus parter). What’s most notable, though, is how engaging those first four episodes are, building the story slowly but absorbingly and with persuasive confidence.

When I barked, I was enormous.

Dean Spanley (2008) (SPOILERS) There is such a profusion of average, respectable – but immaculately made – British period drama held up for instant adulation, it’s hardly surprising that, when something truly worthy of acclaim comes along, it should be singularly ignored. To be fair, Dean Spanley was well liked by critics upon its release, but its subsequent impact has proved disappointingly slight. Based on Lord Dunsany’s 1939 novella, My Talks with Dean Spanley , our narrator relates how the titular Dean’s imbibification of a moderate quantity of Imperial Tokay (“ too syrupy ”, is the conclusion reached by both members of the Fisk family regarding this Hungarian wine) precludes his recollection of a past life as a dog.  Inevitably, reviews pounced on the chance to reference Dean Spanley as a literal shaggy dog story, so I shall get that out of the way now. While the phrase is more than fitting, it serves to underrepresent how affecting the picture is when it has c

Well, it must be terribly secret, because I wasn't even aware I was a member.

The Brotherhood of the Bell (1970) (SPOILERS) No, not Joseph P Farrell’s book about the Nazi secret weapons project, but rather a first-rate TV movie in the secret-society ilk of later flicks The Skulls and The Star Chamber . Only less flashy and more cogent. Glenn Ford’s professor discovers the club he joined 22 years earlier is altogether more hardcore than he could have ever imagined – not some student lark – when they call on the services he pledged. David Karp’s adaptation of his novel, The Brotherhood of the Bell is so smart in its twists and turns of plausible deniability, you’d almost believe he had insider knowledge.