When I think of Patrick Stewart I think of heroes. I picture Jean-Luc Picard, stern faced on the bridge of the USS Enterprise, courageously going where no man has gone before. Or I see the chrome-domed Professor Charles Xavier telepathically (and once again heroically) reading and controlling the minds of others.
“Green Room,” a grisly new survival horror flick from Jeremy Saulnier presents a new, but not necessarily improved Patrick Stewart. Don’t get me wrong, he’s great in the film, but heroic he is not.
The action begins with The Ain’t Rights (Anton Yelchin, Alia Shawkat, Joe Cole, Callum Turner), a punk rock band struggling to make money for gas after a failed tour of the Pacific Northwest. Existing on the kindness of strangers, siphoned gas and Ramen noodles, hoping for a quick payday they take a gig at a skinhead bar in remote Oregon. “Don’t talk politics,” they’re warned by the promoter. Run by the homicidal white supremacist Darcy (Stewart), it’s a hellhole of a place that hosts Racial Advocacy Seminars when they aren’t hosting a hard-core punk shows. Following a contentious set, kicked off with a song called “BLEEP Off, Nazi BLEEPS,” the band grabs their money and gear but just as they are about to leave witness the aftermath of a murder in the club’s dingy green room. While Darcy and his jackboot lieutenants figure out how best to dispose of the band The Ain’t Rights and a friend of the dead woman (Imogen Poots) have to fight for their survival.
Like his Saulnier’s previous film, “Blue Ruin,” the new movie is a stripped down thriller with a focus on the gore and the characters. He takes his time getting to the gruesome stuff, setting up the story as we get to know and like the members of the band. Why else would we care when they (NOT REALLY A SPOILER) start to get picked off one by one? Otherwise it would just be torture porn, and while there are some unpleasant images that wouldn’t be out of place in one of the “Hostel” movies, the point of the story is survival not icky deaths.
The band’s life and death struggle is at the center of the film but the chilling malicious force that propels the movie forward is Stewart’s coldly methodical Darcy. At first he seems reasonable—well, as reasonable as a neo Nazi can be—but by the time he says, “We’re not keeping you, you’re just staying,” you know he lives in a world of his own construction; a world where his acolytes will do almost anything to protect him and their cause, no matter how wet and wild. Stewart is icy calm, a coiled spring capable of anything. Images of Professor X and Jean-Luc Picard will be forever erased from your memory.
“Green Room” is a nasty piece of work, a tense Tasmanian Devil tornado of a movie with solid performances and a DIY feel that meshes perfectly with its punk rock heart.