If there is anything I have learned from watching movies it is this: never, ever take that one last job. No matter how much money, no matter how great the chance of fame, no matter the guilt involved, never take that last gig.
Too bad that these punks have never seen a movie, or they might have figured that out. But alas, they didn’t and a broke hardcore punk band — lead by guitarist and lead-singer, Pat (Anton Yelchin) — takes one last gig hoping to salvage some aspect of this cross-country trip.
Not that they’re desperation isn’t understandable; they drove cross-country to play a gig that no longer exists and, instead, end up playing a Mexican restaurant for $6.77 a piece — $6.78 if you round-up. Not exactly what they hoped for. But their hookup has one more offer. Just one more show closer to Portland for $300 and then they can go home.
The show they take is not one they should have, and it doesn’t take long for them to realize that they are playing a remote club for an exclusive neo-Nazi audience. Is it punk to open the show with a rousing rendition of “Nazi Punks, Fuck Off”? Maybe. But these Nazi punks are packing.
They finish the set, collect their cash, but find all of their gear scattered in the hallway in front of the green room. The headliners are here, they are told. Fine, and they gather their things, but the bassist, Sam (Alia Shawkat), remembers she left her phone in the green room and Pat (Anton Yelchin) goes into retrieve it and finds three large men and one disheveled woman, Amber (Imogen Poots), crying in the corner. Another woman, on the floor, has a knife in her skull. Call 911, Amber pleads. Pat does, sealing their fate.
Green Room, the second film from writer/director Jeremy Saulnier is a little bit a slasher, a little bit siege and a whole lot of carnage. Called the “Ain’t Rights,” these punks have that punk look, but when it comes the violence, they ain’t quite got it. They lack the real life ferocity to put the fear of God in a man like Nazi punks can. Of course, these Nazi punks are out to kill. And kill they will. And kill they do.
Saulnier’s previous film, Blue Ruin (2014), explored the cyclical and destructive nature of violence and revenge. It is a movie as intelligent as it is insightful. Saulnier’s follow-up is smart, and smartly made, but lacks the intelligence of the former. Possibly because the cycle of violence perpetrated in Blue Ruin was a familial one, where average people made less than average decision. In Green Room, violence is perpetrated by a well-organized, and evidently well-connected, Northeastern sect of the Aryan Nation. These people are far from ordinary, though some ordinary folks slip in: Macon Blair is excellent as Gabe, Darcy’s (Patrick Stewart) wide-eyed second-in-command. He brings heart to a heatless world, and a sense that there is more out there.
But it is too little. Not even the whimper of a wounded dog can humanize some characters, no matter how cheap the sentiment might be.