Green Room: hardcore punks battle neo-Nazi thugs - what’s not to like? | Cannes Review

Featuring fine performances and even finer brutality, Jeremy Saulnier’s gruesome battle of American sub-cultures is one of the best of the fest

Green Room
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Director: Jeremy Saulnier
Cert: Club
Genre: Thriller
Starring: Anton Yelchin, Imogen Poots, Patrick Stewart, Alia Shawkat, Callum Turner, Joe Cole, Macon Blair
Running Time: 1 hr 34 mins

Ain’t Rights are a down-at-heel hardcore band syphoning petrol in car parks as they journey from one badly paying gig to another. With expected reservations, the right-on youngsters agree to play a backwoods club frequented by folks their contact describes as “right-wing but may be extremely left-wing”.

Remarkably, they survive the set. But when they inadvertently stumble onto a murder scene backstage, the punks (including Star Trek's Anton Yelchin and Arrested Development's Alia Shawkat) are forced to barricade themselves in the green room. Patrick Stewart leads the gang of neo-Nazi thugs and murderous dogs that wait at the door.

Last year, the Whiplash screening at Director's Fortnight received a 10-minute standing ovation before going on to Oscar glory: this year, there's a similar buzz and much love for Green Room, the third feature from the Brooklyn-based writer-director Jeremy Saulnier.

Do believe the hype. As with Blue Ruin, Green Room exists in lesser-spotted-America and makes for a gruesome battle of the sub-cultures. What begins as a nail-biting thriller effortlessly segues into carnage, replete with ripped throats and wounds that seek to redefine the word 'gaping'.


Viewers with delicate sensibilities may flinch, but Saulnier is far too clever and too neo-realist and too humorous to allow the material to descend into a B-movie splatter-fest.

In a film defined by great performances, Imogen Poots – sporting a heinous mullet – arguably steals the show as a white supremacist punkette who gets caught up in the brutality. Cinematographer Sean Porter finds interesting things to do with confined spaces, just as Saulnier’s screenplay turns feedback into a novel defence.

In 2013, Saulnier's Blue Ruin won the FIPRESCI prize: expect even shinier gongs this time around.

Green Room is showing at Cannes 2014 as part of Director's Fortnight. For the latest Cannes coverage, click here

Tara Brady

Tara Brady

Tara Brady, a contributor to The Irish Times, is a writer and film critic