Patrick Stewart plays the leader of a backwoods Nazi group in Green Room
, a grisly horror thriller about a group of young musicians under siege by murderous skinheads in a sub-dive bar somewhere in the Oregon boonies. At first he displays the veneer of authoritarian civility we associate with Captain Jean-Luc Picard and Professor Charles Xavier. When all hell breaks loose, he moves quickly and efficiently to contain the crisis.
Hiring Stewart was an inspired decision for director Jeremy Saulnier (Blue Ruin). The prospect of watching the beloved British actor appear as such a vile character will attract a lot of people who normally wouldn't come within a country mile of this kind of film. Stewart – who clearly is having a grand time playing against type – is only onscreen for a few minutes, but he makes a powerful impression.
Green Room follows a punk band called the Ain't Rights that have been traveling the country playing anywhere they can. So broke that they have to furtively siphon gas to keep going, they accept a job playing a matinee show in a skinhead roadhouse.
The band mates – bassist Pat (Anton Yelchin, Chekov in Star Trek), drummer Reece (Joe Cole), guitarist Sam (Alia Shawkat) and lead singer Tiger (Callum Turner) – may be tired and broke, but they remain feisty, opening their show by playing the Dead Kennedys' "Nazi Punks Fuck Off." Some audience members react with anger, but most seem okay – maybe even impressed – by the show of spunk.
All is well, relatively speaking, until after the show, when one of the Ain't Rights goes backstage to the green room to retrieve a cell phone and walks into a murder scene. A girl is dead – stabbed in the head and lying on the floor. Her friend Amber (Imogen Poots, another Brit using an American accent) quivers nearby. A call is made to 911. The skinheads freak out. Club manager Gabe (Macon Blair) and venue owner Darcy (Stewart) assure the band that they are safe, but the kids know better. They manage to capture one of the skinheads (Eric Edelstein) as they hunker down and try to figure out how to escape with their lives. The tension level remains at 11 for most of the movie. There are confrontations and retreats, along with numerous face-offs that result in deaths and/or bloody wounds. It's explicit, so be ready.
I'm not a fan of this genre. I understand the appeal of vicarious brushes with death, I just don't share it. My reaction puts me in the minority. As of this writing, reviews of Green Room posted on the Rotten Tomatoes website are running 87 percent positive with an average rating of nearly four out of five stars.
I had problems remaining oriented during the siege portion of the movie, but I appear to be the only one. After the screening I asked a number of people if they had trouble keeping up with the action as it moved from location to location, and every one of them said that they didn't. I found no complaints online either; in fact, a couple of writers praised the film for laying out the action so clearly.
Director Saulnier and his crew certainly deserve credit for authenticity when it comes to the band. The Ain't Rights feel like a genuine struggling band. Not an easy thing to do, but necessary to feed the drive to create and perform music. None of the band mates come off like the colorful protagonist of a movie, which is appropriate, but still a bit frustrating. The two most interesting characters are Imogen Poots' Amanda, who shows more layers than those around her, and Patrick Stewart's Darcy, whose ability to appear reasonable makes what lies beneath even scarier.