As one of the much talked about cinema releases that I missed out on this year, I was excited to see Green Room being made available on the ‘flix and jumped at the chance to see it before the year ended, predicting an expertly crafted tale full of dread, horror and excitement, as word of mouth had me believe.
You can sense a “but . . .” coming, can’t you? Well, there is. As, though I never expected this, I thought Green Room was a massive disappointment and I find myself, much as it was with Nocturnal Animals, in the critical opinion minority.
As you may know, writer/director Jeremy Saulnier’s film is about a punk rock band, which includes Pat, as played by the late, great Anton Yelchin, who play a gig at a Neo-Nazi bar but when Pat witnesses the aftermath of a murder, the band find themselves unable to leave and find themselves at the mercy of bar owner Darcy (Patrick Stewart).
It should be a simple story but the problem with Green Room is that Saulnier makes it all frustratingly incohesive and incomprehensible. Through its uneven direction/writing/editing, the narrative soon becomes too convoluted, introducing some kind of conspiracy that doesn’t go anywhere (one of the characters even spells it out for us by saying “conspiracy!”) and turning what should have been a simple thriller into a muddled, head-scratching affair. While watching, it got to the point where I had to turn on the subtitles as I was left baffled as to what any of the characters were actually doing or saying.
The characters are noticeably odd in that I found their dialogue and actions to be unnatural and strange. It’s a bit hard to explain but I found that the characters’ dialogue didn’t ring true in the slightest and that they didn’t believably act in the way that people normally do. Or putting it another way, I didn’t fully understand their motivations and found myself confused as to why they acted the way they did. Confused? So was I.
For me, the confusion started when Darcy told Big Justin to give the band the gun. I mean, why? To get their prints on it? Well, from then onwards, I started getting a headache trying to work out what was actually going on. Plus, most of the following action simply involves the characters running out of the green room, getting shot at, running back into the green room, running out again, getting shot at, going down into the heroin lab and so on. Grrr!
The actors give it their all, I guess, but much of the acting was quite subdued and tame. Based on general audience feedback, I was all set to see a whole new side of Patrick Stewart, prepared to witness him as a chilling, scary villain but unfortunately, his character simply wandered around, speaking randomly and with that slight Southern drawl, he was often hard to understand. It’s a shame, I expected better from him. Overall, the characters were okay but none of them were particularly memorable or exciting.
The violence is relatively tame, containing only a couple of shocks and the film falls short in creating a sense of genuine dread. Ultimately, this is a horror film that’s not scary and a thriller with only a couple of thrills.