Having gone 90 miles out of their way for the last stop of a disappointing tour that finds them having to siphon gas to keep moving, punk rockers The Ain’t Rights are dealt another blow when their host admits that he lost his license for their show. He has an idea, getting them a $350 gig with cousin Daniel (Mark Webber, "Laggies") for an audience he warns will be 'boots and braces,' but the band get more than they bargained for when they're witness to murder in the "Green Room."
Writer/director Jeremy Saulnier ("Blue Ruin") leaves the more interior contemplation on the circle of violence of his "Blue Ruin" for a straight out genre exercise in which a group of underdogs goes up against Darcy Banker's (Patrick Stewart, "X-Men: Days of Future Past") iron fisted rule of White Supremacist group deep in the Oregon woods. This is a David and Goliath tale featuring an ingenious-under-pressure David fighting against seemingly unwinnable, no-holds-barred odds. The violence is intense, but some of the character strands get lost amidst the mayhem.
As if their amiable, Mohawked contact's advise to 'not talk politics' weren't warning enough, the Confederate flag and racial graffiti adorning the venue leave no doubt as to who the band is gigging for. Pat, the bass player (Anton Yelchin, "Like Crazy," "5 to 7"), guitarist Sam (Alia Shawkat, "Night Moves," "The Final Girls"), lead singer Tiger (Callum Turner, "Queen & Country") and drummer Reece (Joe Cole, 2015's "The Secret in Their Eyes") show considerable pluck by covering The Dead Kennedys’ “Nazi Punks F&$% Off,” which seems to win the respect of the crowd.
Returning backstage, they're told they need to leave the premises immediately as the next group is coming in, but Sam's left her cell phone charging and when Pat goes back to get it, he's shocked by what he finds. The group is herded back into the green room where they're held hostage by bouncer Big Justin (Eric Edelstein, "Jurassic World") and his very big gun. This begins a life-or-death game of cat and mouse, the mice baited with reassurances of police intervention.
Saulnier doesn't shy away from some teeth-clenching, peek-through-the-fingers, savagery, but the film excels in how he's laid out his game. He utilizes knowledge the band and Amber (Imogen Poots, "28 Weeks Later," "Knight of Cups"), the pivotal victim's friend they initially distrust, would quite believably have for their survival, especially their method for thwarting Clark's (Kai Lennox, "Night Moves") attack dogs. Character, too, comes into play, especially on the side of the enemy. Not everyone makes it out alive, and this is where the film gets a bit muddy - I for one missed the death of a major character entirely as the group moves from the green room, into an underground bunker and outside. A bit of humor culled from a repeating bit of desert island listmaking feels forced.
The ensemble cast is way above average for this type of film, Yelchin, Shawkat and Poots the standouts (there has been much praise heaped upon Stewart whose icy manipulation does the job unremarkably). "Blue Ruin" star Macon Blair plays Darcy henchman Gabe as a man in over his head.
Robin gives "Green Room" a C.
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