Movie review: Green Room

Photo Courtesy of
Photo Courtesy of

Jeff Turner

It is hard to predict whether Jeremy Saulnier will, in fact, become one of the next big talents; but based off of “Green Room,” and his previous work, “Blue Ruin,” it is so challenging to not speculate.

“Green Room” is cool. “Green Room” is the exact kind of film that becomes a cult hit and popular with hipsters. It’s not “Scarface;” it’s “Blow Out.” It’s not “Pulp Fiction;” it’s “Jackie Brown.”

The biggest thing “Green Room” represents is the announcement of Jeremy Saulnier as a talent. It is not liable to go down as one of his all-time greats, but with this and “Blue Ruin,” it will be the moment where people noticed this guy had a certain style and a way he did things. That’s not a man-behind-the-curtain-type thing. With cinematic auteurs, the viewer loves to see a method behind the madness. Any great auteur has a style, they have themes they wrestle with and methods they use. The collective we are getting to see is Saulnier’s bud.

Watching “Green Room” must be like how it felt to walk out of something like “Blood Simple” during its first run in 1985 (“Who ARE these Coen Brothers?”). Inept characters and foreshadowing fake-outs (i.e. one thinks something is going to happen or a character is going to play a large role but the rug gets pulled out right from under them).

There is a reason why “Green Room” was considered for this series, and that’s because there is a running theme and a fascinating idea that Saulnier is working with. Saulnier is interested in how violence is perceived in movies, and how the viewer becomes desensitized to it and even perversely thrilled.

Consider the violence early on in the movie. The movie spends a lot of time on the characters interacting in the room alone with Big Justin. Meanwhile, the white supremacists are plotting how they’re going to kill these kids in a way where they can all go about their days afterwards. Both the extended way Justin is eventually murdered, and the bureaucracy the supremacists go through to make sure that this happens without a hitch demonstrates something major.

In the context of this movie, the ‘big bad guy with the evil ray guns’ doesn’t exist, and that those same people are just as scared, in their own way, as the protagonists. Saulnier goes to such lengths, that when directing Patrick Stewart as a villain, he opts to lead him in a direction where Stewart is as reigned in as much as possible. There is no confrontation or underdog narratives in the cards, these are people going about murder the same way they’d go about sweeping the floor.

The deaths in this movie as well as the modus operandi of this movie are more reigned in, subdued and mundane. These murders are not ones the audience cheers at.

Then Pat (Anton Yelchin) finishes his monologue about paintball midway through the film. He was in a paintball match with his friends, and their opponents were ex-marines, so naturally they were getting smoked. But then one of Pat’s friends goes out, and just goes ballistic. Knocks ‘em all out. What they needed to win in that moment, was to treat killing these guys and getting out of there like a game.

We watch movies in a similar way. We disconnect ourselves so far away from the human elements that we becoming uncaring.