A lot of people turn up their noses at overly violent films. And while violence can certainly be exploitative, it can also be effective given the right circumstances. Director Jeremy Saulnier uses violence to deliver exciting results in Green Room, a standoff thriller that is sure to shock and surprise. Like most genre films, it’s thematically shallow and character development is practically non-existent, but that hardly matters for a film about a punk rock band being held captive by a group of neo-Nazis. It’s best to just sit back and enjoy the ride, provided that you’ve got a strong stomach.

“The Ain’t Rights” are a punk rock band who are travelling the country in a large van, siphoning gas and surviving on whatever money they can scrounge up at shows. They arrive in Oregon for a gig at a small bar, but soon realize that the establishment is run by neo-Nazis. After playing a set that angers everybody in the crowd, the band leaves the stage, only to realize that all of their gear has been moved out of the green room. While being ushered out of the club, the band’s female member Sam (Alia Shawkat) realizes that she forgot her cellphone and heads back into the room, only to discover a young woman who has been stabbed to death. Pat (Anton Yelchin) and the band’s other members want to call for help, but the club’s owner (Patrick Stewart) is intent on eliminating any witnesses.

This is a film that thrives on its suspense and violence, but nothing really happens for the first 20 minutes of the movie. We watch the band drive around the country and get interviewed by a local radio DJ, but the characters are so thinly realized that it’s hard to care about anything that they’re doing. It’s not until they actually get to the bar and witness the murder that things really kick into high gear. As events begin to spiral out of control, it’s often difficult to understand what exactly is happening and why people are behaving in certain ways, but this is something that feels true to what would actually happen in a situation like this. It’s commendable that the film feels as grounded and realistic as it does, especially with its use of violence.

The first overly violent moment is sure to draw gasps from audience members, both with its portrayal and who is in on the receiving end of it. The violence actually heightens the suspense and makes you feel like anything can happen at any given time. Like Saulnier’s last film Blue Room, it’s great to see what can be accomplished with a small budget and Green Room makes the most of its short runtime. Nice cinematography and solid performances – particularly from Patrick Stewart – help the film, but it’s a great premise and Saulnier’s assured direction that really elevate this over your average genre fare. This may be a messy film, both in its execution and violence, but it’s one that you probably don’t want to miss.

Green Room receives 3/4

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