It doesn’t need to have big money, it doesn’t need to have big names, it just needs good ideas, honesty, enthusiasm and determination. Released in 2013, writer/director Jeremy Saulnier’s second feature Blue Ruin was partially funded to the tune of $37k through Kickstarter, billed as “a revenge film equally suited for art house cinephiles and die-hard genre fans.” Premiered at the Cannes Film Festival where it won the Fédération Internationale de la Presse Cinématographique prize, this was beyond expectation for a crowdfunded project.
Three years later, Saulnier has returned with a high profile cast including Scott Pilgrim vs. the World’s Mark Webber, …28 Weeks Later’s Imogen Poots, Star Trek Into Darkness’ Anton Yelchin and X-Men: Days of Future Past‘s Sir Patrick Stewart, but retained his anger and uncompromising approach to aggressive storytelling.
They may be called the Ain’t Rights, but one thing they hoped would go to plan was their tour, but Pat (Yelchin), Sam (The Final Girls’ Alia Shawkat), Reece (The Falling’s Joe Cole) and Tiger (Victor Frankenstein’s Callum Turner) tour bus keeps taking them into trouble, straight into a cornfield when Tiger falls asleep at the wheel with their engine running until the tank runs dry, forcing them to cycle back to civilisation and siphon fuel, then finding the gig they have just travelled to play has been cancelled.
Set up with a backup venue in the backwoods of Portland opening a triple bill, the hardcore punk combo are warned that it’s the “boots and braces scene,” but they can’t afford to not get paid, so they take the chance even with the knowledge that the crowd are might be rough. Defiant despite the presence of White Pride flags in the room, they offer an ill-judged opening number but the crowd soon put their energy into the mosh pit.
Instructed to clear out before the next band set up they’re loading the van when Sam realises she’s left her phone in the green room; Pat runs back upstairs to grab it and finds one of the girls who had been dancing, stabbed in the head, dead on the carpet. He runs for the door, calling the others to get in the van, but the bouncers have other ideas, herding them back into the green room along with the dead girl’s friend Amber (Poots) and confiscating their phones while they wait for their leader to arrive.
It’s a no-win scenario from the out, a claustrophobic thriller in which the young punks must outwit an armed, heavily muscled and overly aggressive superior number who have them pinned down, the brains behind the operation club owner Darcy Banker (Stewart), a gentleman committed to his cause and more sinister than the tattooed thugs who protect his property, dangerous to both the band and his own followers who have threatened his position.
Largely tied to a single location, the plot is necessarily somewhat more mechanical than Blue Ruin but the threat is real and all too frequently bloody, shattered neon tubes acting as makeshift weapons and gaffer tape sufficing in the absence of a first aid kit, but time is against them as the forces behind the door become more impatient and desperate.
Understandably short on laughs and high on nervous sweat, an evening confined to the Green Room may not be an entirely pleasant experience but it is a well-crafted and consistently performed exercise in tension, and while not as satisfying as the staggering antics of Blue Ruin it secures Saulnier as an up-and-coming voice in American cinema who will hopefully remain untamed and free of the constraints which so often follow mainstream acknowledgement.