In Blue Ruin and now in Green Room, Jeremy Saulnier has made a pair of films about people who get in over their heads and try to solve their situation through violence. His characters are not “good” at violence though. Neither his heroes or his villains kill each other well. They are inept, because they are not superheroes or action stars. They are just people like you and me.
In Green Room, a punk rock band gets a gig at a neo-Nazi bar. While there, they see something they shouldn’t see and get captured by the bar owner and his goons. They fight to get free as the Nazis try to kill them.
As you might imagine, it’s a violent film, but it doesn’t glorify the violence. These people are all so inept at killing each other, what they do to each other is horrendous. It’s grotesque and bloody and painful. After watching a Saulnier film, you don’t want to emulate his characters. You may laugh at them—his films are also funny—but you pity them as well.
Green Room is a grungy film. It’s set-up is simple, and there’s an aspect of circularity to the narrative. The band members keep trying to escape the green room in which they are trapped and they keep getting driven back into it. It’s their prison and their safe haven. You could draw a parallel between that narrative rhythm and the cycle of violence they are trapped in – the violence they revert to both gives keeps them safe and damns them to a life of continued violence.
Is the film making that point? The rhythm is definitely there, so maybe, but I could also be reading into the film as well. Green Room is terrifically entertaining, so I want it to be saying something about violence that I want said. It may intend to be simply an entertaining story though. The pain the film puts the characters through could be a form of cinematic sadism. Saulnier is a skilled enough filmmaker to leave it up to you.