I often praise movies for being straight-forward and simple because too many films have overly complicated and convoluted plot-lines. Green Room is a great example of how rewarding a film can be when it cuts the fat and goes straight for the kill.
The film follows a starving punk band as they decide to play a show at a rural DIY venue catering to skinheads, neo-Nazis and other extreme right-wing groups. They’re obviously all opposed to the politics of the venue, but are in desperate need of cash and decide to risk it. After witnessing a crime, they are held hostage by neo-Nazis. And that’s the whole movie.
The film-makers clearly have fist-hand experience, love and appreciation for the underground punk scene. The band feels completely authentic but not romanticized. Their music is raw, and they show a commitment to their art. But they’re also a bit pretentious and indulgent. The classic conflict between punks and skinheads is front-and-center, and I imagine the film-makers may have had personal experience with such right-wing hate groups (although obviously not to the same extent).
The film succeeds at creating a sense of dread and tension early on, and building it slowly to a successful pay-off. There is a bit of run-around in the middle, but overall we’re given exactly what we came for. The movie is well-shot, well written and well acted. The punks are real, the Nazis are scary, the violence is brutal. The film lives with its consequences and doesn’t chicken out. But this isn’t a thinking movie, it’s a simple roller coaster. At the end, we aren’t better for the experience, just glad we had it. And there’s absolutely nothing wrong with that. The film’s near perfect execution is in service of nothing more than it’s own sake, and perhaps that’s the point.
Near the beginning of the film, Yelchin’s character explains why the band has no social media presence. He describes music as a transient experience to be shared live. When it’s over, it’s over, and if you can get it any time on your computer it’s less valuable. Green Room is a film made to be like a live show. We know little about the people on screen, just that they’re here to perform for us. The film wastes little time getting to the point: we’re here to see punks vs. Nazis. When it’s over, it’s over, and the final attempt to glean meaning from the experience is dismissed outright. Horrible things happen, and there is no greater purpose or meaning to them. How very punk rock.