Old school punk rock quartet the Ain’t Rights (Anton Yelchin, Alia Shawkat, Callum Turner and Joe Cole) have fallen on hard times. Nearly stranded after a paying show falls through, they reluctantly accept a headlining matinee gig at a remote club in the heart of Oregon’s backwoods. Described by the kids who set it up as a haven for “boots” and right-wingers, it turns out to be run by a group of white supremacists. After the band glimpse the aftermath of a young woman’s murder, they’re trapped in the venue’s green room with a somewhat mysterious witness (Imogen Poots), while the club’s soft spoken, but malevolent owner (Patrick Stewart) attempts to coax them out.
Writer/director Jeremy Saulnier’s follow-up to his game-changing sophomore effort, Blue Ruin, showcases the filmmaker’s talents for creating tensely imperfect situations that feel dangerously realistic. Green Room gets as much mileage out of its shocking instances of brutal violence and cat-and-mouse terror as from its small character moments. These characters — heroes and villains alike — act and react like normal human beings, not filmic creations, where everyone is able to come up with perfect plans to either escape or cover things up. What makes Saulnier’s films interesting is that the mistakes are what generate the most suspense. It also comes with a smartly written, intricately meted out plot, with a number of different moving parts and slowly emerging personality traits.
He also adapts better to a smaller, more contained setting and scenario than his previous films, and works with a perfect cast. Stewart proves that a villain can get more done with a calm demeanour than going over the top with anger, while Yelchin brings likeability to the most relatable band member. However, the scene-stealers are Poots (who arguably gets the badass role) and Blue Ruin star Macon Blair (as one of Stewart’s chief henchmen).