I’ll admit it – Green Room wasn’t so much on my list of movies to screen at the 2015 Toronto International Film Festival (TIFF) as it was just a film that fit my schedule. Searching for a film to fill a gap in my schedule after Sicario and before Black Mass, I swept up tickets to the screening more due to convenience than interest.
But that was before I did a little research. Director Jeremy Saulnier would hardly have been a name to which I would have recognized in conversation even though I had both seen and enjoyed his two feature films Murder Party and Blue Ruin. Couple his involvement with a facially recognizable cast that included Patrick Stewart (X-Men), Anton Yelchin (Fright Night) and Imogen Poots (Need for Speed) and I found myself more drawn to a film that I had no knowledge of prior to the delivery of the TIFF Program Guide.
Green Room is not as complicated as Saulnier’s Blue Ruin, but it surely is more fun. A punk quartet from Virginia are touring the country when they take a gig at a dive where their booker warns them to not “talk politics” during the set. This warning is held in just as much regard as the three rules to owning a Magwai as the band stands in front of an audience of skinheads and neo-Nazi’s while belting out the tune “Nazi Punks Fuck Off” by the Dead Kennedys.
Miraculously, the group gets through their set with their arms and legs still attached, but it is when one of the members heads backstage to the green room to retrieve a cell phone. A startling revelation turns gig-night into a nightmarish where the group barricades themselves in the green room much to the violent chagrin of the bald and tattooed bar patrons that could care less about the group’s survival.
The film quickly takes a grab-a-weapon-and-try-and-survive turn and although this takes Green Room from accepting the final award of the night at this year’s Oscars, it makes for some grand entertainment which is surprisingly cut among some smart and snappy dialogue. There are plenty of good kills and surprise jolts and the concluding scenes had our TIFF audience vocal in their glorified acceptance.
Patrick Stewart doesn’t get to play a bad guy all that often, but much like Ben Kinsley showed us in Sexy Beast, the Brit can turn on the bad when given an out-of-type role and Stewart was a marvel to watch leaving his Captain Picard nice guy persona at the door. He’s not ‘pure evil’ but he is the wheel that turns the gears as the situation bottoms out for our poor surivors.
There is so much to enjoy in Green Room that we don’t want to let the dead white supremacist cat out of the bag, but let’ just say that the unique use of a confined dingy setting, believable performances and a menacing cast made for a wild ride and puts Green Room squarely in the sights for the Midnight Madness Audience Award at the festival.