-A well-made genre film with plenty of gore, and a lovable action comedy starring two great actors.
From the director of 2014’s best indie thriller Blue Ruin comes another “colorific” title in Green Room, a gore-fest movie filled with horror tropes that is executed at possibly the highest ceiling of its genre, but is that really saying much? In a genre ruled by the “Saw” series, as well as infamous director Eli Roth, young director Jeremy Saunier’s stab at a special type of genre film often feels fresh and inventive. It also feels dopey, down-trodden and features just a bit too much splatter for my taste.
It’s a punk rock concert gone wrong when a broke, young band (parts played by Anton Yelchin, Alia Shawkat, Joe Cole, and Callum Turner) decides to take a gig playing for a nazi-skinhead cabin community in the middle of forested nowhere. Without any friends around or knowledge of the unfortunate stop on their tour, the rockers head into enemy territory unwisely alone. The first song of their set is the Dead Kennedy’s “Nazi Punks Fuck Off” which enrages the crowd and creates a less than popular atmosphere for them. This is worsened when they head backstage and witness a murder, one of the women in this community has been stabbed in the head, and the band knows about it. This creates a cat and mouse negotiation with the remaining members backstage and one of the community girls (Imogen Poots) against the fearless leader of the cult played by Patrick Stewart.
As I stated in the beginning of this review, it’s hard to make a movie of this genre good. When we see members of this band savagely executed because of the cult’s wish to cover up and keep the murder private, the methods to which they use are a bit far-fetched and illogical. Rather than approach this from a position of strength, the cult instead makes a game out of killing the band members, when that hadn’t been their plan in the beginning. Giant pitbulls are involved, and things get out of hand quickly. It’s hard to understand why the tone of the movie goes from a negotiation thriller in a bad area to a gore-fest horror film is tough to really follow, and Patrick Stewart is widely underused here in the villain role. The stars expected to really carry the movie is an improbable alliance between Imogen Poots and Anton Yelchin, both good, young actors in their own right.
The film-making in Green Room, in terms of craft, is solid. The film looks great, the action is shot very well, and suspense does build in certain scenes. This suspense is immediately dampened when someone gets brutally murdered because we’ve learned not to appreciate blood splatter and too much gore in our films. It’s no longer scary or even shocking when someone gets their jugular slit, or someone gets disemboweled. While this may be shot and crafted better, more taut, than let’s say Saw, Final Destination, or Hostel, there’s only so much that a decent director can do with a film that relies entirely on gross-out tactics and underused subplots. It’s well-crafted and may be the best that this torture genre has to offer, but it’s really not saying that much toward its quality or its ability to be enjoyed.
Starring: Anton Yelchin, Imogen Poots, Patrick Stewart, Macon Blair, and Alia Shawkat
Director: Jeremy Saulnier (Blue Ruin)
RT Score: 89%
Mr. Right is a refreshing action/comedy with some good dialogue, good chemistry among the actors, and an overall sense of infectious fun that pervades the movie and forces one to enjoy the experience. If you can get through the first fifteen minutes of setup where some questionable film-making decisions are made, this little indie comedy may be a diamond in the rough for you.
I should preface my thoughts on this film by saying two things. The first, writer Max Landis is fine by me. Many people found American Ultra, starring Jesse Eisenberg and Kristen Stewart, (a slightly similar movie, I might add) to be reprehensible and dumb, but I didn’t. I suspect that the 40% of critics who enjoyed this film also are the 40% of critics who enjoyed American Ultra. I’m willing to accept that Mr. Right, one of the later, throwaway films at TIFF last year, is not a masterpiece or even that well-made of a film; it’s just infectiously fun.
The second is that I am an Anna Kendrick completist. I love her acting style, her likability, her charm, her quirkiness, and anything with her immediately gets a boost in quality for me because I think that she not only forces films that she’s in to have a sense of fun, but she also manages to be completely immersive in her performances, even the smaller ones. She’s great in serious films like Up in the Air, 50/50, End of Watch, and The Last Five Years, while still being funny and helping comedies like Into the Woods, Pitch Perfect, Pitch Perfect 2, Happy Christmas, and Scott Pilgrim v. the World. She is let loose in a way that’s never happened before in this film, and director Paco Cabezas did a good job letting her comedic energy work on this movie. Hell, Sam Rockwell’s not too bad either.
The plot centers around a depressed and recently-dumped Martha (Kendrick), who bumps into a charming guy (Sam Rockwell) at a drug store when shopping. They go on a date, sleep together, go on a few more dates, but then she begins to realize what “Mr. Right’s” lifestyle is: he’s a former bounty hunter/contract killer who has gone more toward a moral ground, now killing those who try to contract him. He’s being hunted by an FBI Agent who may not be an FBI Agent (Tim Roth) as well as a pair of brothers (James Ransone, Michael Ecklund) who want to cause some change in their gang. RZA from Wu-Tang Clan also makes an appearance.
The action scenes are directed and handled really well in this film, and the comedy/chemistry between the two leads is excellent. When the third act happens, a change happens in Anna Kendrick’s character, and that change is the most fun that the movie has. Her manic energy makes the film funny and relatable through the first two acts, but when she’s finally released at the end, it’s just a wonderful barrage of chaotic energy between her and the always reliable Sam Rockwell. I’m fully aware that this film is not a masterpiece, but it’s definitely one to be able to pop in and watch several times, or rent with your friends. It just finds a way to meld to distinct tones and work in a very fun, vibrant fashion. Sometimes, as I’ve said about movies on this site before, a movie can just be fun.
Starring: Sam Rockwell, Anna Kendrick, Tim Roth, James Ransone, Michael Ecklund, and RZA
Director: Paco Cabezas (The Appeared, Rage)
RT Score: 40%