HEROES & Villains
You might feel like your heart is going to pound its way through your chest, almost to the very last scene of writer/director Jeremy Saulnier’s riveting third full-length feature Green Room (A24/Broadgreen), but it’s only a movie. Because of that, the film takes its place at the head of the class of the new generation of horror/suspense flicks such as The Witch, It Follows and The Babadook.
The Ain’t Rights, a young punk band from the Washington, DC (Arlington, actually, as one member points out) are scrambling to survive on tour, reduced to siphoning gas from other cars to fuel its van and playing shows to small crowds in Mexican restaurants. To make up for the latter, the quartet – Pat (the late Anton Yelchin), Sam (Alia Shawkat), Reece (Joe Cole) and lead vocalist Tiger (Callum Turner) – accepts an offer to play a better-paying opening act matinee gig from mohawked journalist/show promoter Tad (David W. Thompson), at a club where his cousin Daniel (Mark Webber) and Daniels’ girlfriend Emily (Taylor Tunes) are employed.
Warned that the crowd might be a little on the right-wing skinhead side, the band is unprepared for how far to the right the white-power patrons lean. However, the swastika and SS graffiti and stickers emblazoned on the walls of the green room give them a better idea. Being the punks that they are, the Ain’t Rights open their set with the Dead Kennedys “Nazi Punks Fuck Off,” which, as you might imagine, doesn’t go over well with the crowd. Can things possibly get worse? You betcha!
Just as the band is about to load out its equipment, Pat pops into the green room to fetch the mobile phone Sam left to charge, only to discover that Emily has been murdered. Her body’s surrounded by the members of the headlining band, as well as bouncer Big Justin (Eric Edelstein) and her friend Amber (Imogen Poots). An attempt to dial 911 goes awry and suddenly the band, along with witness Amber, finds itself being held captive until club owner and Fuhrer-figure Darcy (an ominous Patrick Stewart) arrives to straighten out the situation in his distinctive and destructive fashion.
What follows is some of the most exhilarating suspense and stomach-churning gore to hit the screen in a long time. Handguns, shotguns, box cutters and machetes all play supporting roles. A pack of pit-bulls, trained to mutilate by Werm (Brent Werzner), also play a prominent part, although Green Room’s comment on the loyalty of dogs is as touching as it is terrifying.
Perhaps what’s most remarkable about Green Room is its prescience. Filmed before unstable Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump had fully ignited his hateful following, Green Room is equal parts message movie and horror story. Trump supporters give it three Ks! DVD+Digital special features include a “making of” featurette and audio commentary by writer/director Saulnier.
When we last left our divergent heroine Tris (Shailene Woodley), in the crumbling dystopian remains of Chicago 100 or so years from now, she had handily disposed of ruthless Erudite leader Jeanine (think a smarter Donald Trump in a skirt) in 2015’s The Divergent Series: Insurgent. More determined than ever to discover what lies beyond the high and electrified wall (see: Trump) surrounding the city, Tris gathers a small team including love-interest Four (the ridiculously hot Theo James), repentant brother Caleb (Ansel Elgort), diabolical Peter (Miles Teller), and petite but powerful Christina (Zoe Kravitz) and begins her journey in The Divergent Series: Allegiant (Summit).
Meanwhile, back in Chicago, Four’s mother Evelyn (Naomi Watts) who has become the de facto leader, attempting to share power with Allegiant head Johanna (Octavia Spencer), is not only unhappy that he has left with Tris, but also must deal with the rising tide of anger in the city (doesn’t seem like much has changed in the future Chicago). However, as Tris finds out when she meets with purity-obsessed David (Jeff Daniels), the man who governs the futuristic city in which the Bureau of Genetic Welfare operates, not everything is as it appears. As usual difficult choices, including the wrong ones, must be made, as allegiances are formed and broken.
The special effects in The Divergent Series: Allegiant alternate between being cool and clever or downright laughable. You be the judge when it comes to the orange memory erasing serum fog. The energy level is at its lowest here, which contributes to the trouble. If you’re not thrilled with this installment (and it’s easy not to be), consider it to be a placeholder for the next chapter in the series, The Divergent Series: Ascendant, due to hit your local multiplex in June of 2017. Blu-ray+DVD+Digital HD exclusives and special features include half a dozen featurettes and audio commentary by producers Douglas Wick and Lucy Fisher.