Director Jeremy Saulnier’s well-regarded 2013 revenge saga, Blue Ruin, introduced him as someone who could explore the sordid underbelly of America with an original eye.
Now, in the grim, claustrophobic and equally rewarding Green Room, he expands on that theme. He sets his ultra-violent thriller in the world of punk rock, with Star Trek’s Patrick Stewart playing a Nazi-in-chief.
The Ain’t Rights is a struggling punk band whose members, played by Anton Yelchin, Joe Cole, Alia Shawkat and Callum Turner, can barely afford to feed themselves or put gas in their junk-heap van, in which they tour the country. So when an equally broke but wonderfully mohawked concert promoter (David W. Thompson) can’t pay them after their show is canceled, he sets them up with a gig on their way home so they won’t have made the trip in vain.
The one caveat: Don’t talk politics, he tells them.
It turns out the show is at a neo-Nazi retreat in the middle of the woods. It freaks out The Ain’t Rights — they even perform a Dead Kennedys anti-Nazi punk song as noisy protest to the booing throng — but they need the money.
Things take a darker turn when the body of a neo-Nazi girl is found in the dressing room — green room in entertainment-industry parlance — with a knife in the head, the result of an attack by a fellow believer. The girl’s friend, Amber (Imogen Poots), is so horrified that she’s ready to go against the movement and call the authorities.
The Nazis don’t want the terrified band members or an angry Amber calling the police, so Darcy (Stewart) and his gang decide to shut them up permanently.
What follows is, on paper, standard horror-thriller stuff: Our heroes trapped in a confined space with all sorts of evil, human and canine. But Saulnier elevates the ordinary into a tense game of cat-and-mouse that’s leavened only slightly by a dark sense of humor.
Rated R for strong, brutal graphic violence, gory images, strong language, drug content. 1:34. Hamburg.