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Green Room Review

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Backwoods Oregon. Punk band The Ain’t Rights have to fight for their lives when a group of neo-Nazi thugs lay siege to the bar they’re playing in.

★★★★

Writer-director Jeremy Saulnier is among the most inventive, versatile filmmakers working in low-budget, indie genre movies. Following break-out black comedy and revenge noir, he’s expertly turned to siege mechanics with this powerful suspense picture.

An opening sequence deftly establishes our heroes, The Ain’t Rights, as defiant followers of the punk flame while explaining the Blues Brothers-like misunderstandings that get them booked to play a far right (“technically extreme left”) club. Opening their set with a cover of the Dead Kennedys’ Nazi Punks Fuck Off might seem suicidal, but their nerve creepily wins over a few of the audience, including the spaced-out screwdriver-murderer who fronts the house band.

Effectively meshes spiky suspense and action with blackly comic touches.

Post gig, after stumbling over a corpse, The Ain’t Rights hole up in the green room with the dead girl’s friend Amber (Imogen Poots, with a neo-Nazi haircut) and bouncer Big Justin (Eric Edelstein) who they take hostage. Put upon manager Gabe (Saulnier’s recurring star Macon Blair) calls in his boss, Darcy (Stewart, relishing a chance to be evil for once), to negotiate or murder away the problem.

Like many great siege movies, this alternates edgy conversations with bursts of action as both sides work out plans to break in or get away and then have to think fast when things go south. There are shock-gore moments a-plenty, and the order in which characters are culled isn’t entirely guessable.

There are also hidden depths to the line-up of musos and skinhead thugs, with the presence of softie indie-drama types Anton Yelchin (the world’s worst inspirational speaker) and Alia Shawkat (a motormouth cleverclogs guitarist with a secret fondness for Simon & Garfunkel) hinting their characters might not be the hardnut outcasts they outwardly claim – which later adds to the suspense as they reveal unexpected capabilities.

It’s no more an in-depth look at the American neo-Nazi scene than Precinct 13 was a sociological study of LA gangs (though it has some unsettling specifics — “Red laces only,” Darcy insists when calling in his troops), but with it so effectively meshing spiky suspense and action with blackly comic touches, who really needs it to be?

A riotous, rough-hewn and rousing punk reinvention of ’70s-style grindhouse exploitation-with-a-brain-cinema.