Friday, April 29, 2016


Opening this weekend:

Green RoomThe Ain’t Rights, a down-and-out punk band on a broke, exhausted, gasoline-siphoning tour, lines up a dodgy gig at an isolated club in the Pacific Northwest. The place turns out to be a hive of skinheads and neo-Nazis, but they play their set, get paid and are in the midst of getting the hell away when one of the band members goes back into the green room to retrieve a forgotten cell phone and sees…well, let’s just say something that very definitely ain’t right.

From there on, The Ain’t Rights are besieged by the scumbags, who are determined not to let them leave after what they’ve witnessed. Eventually the club’s owner (Patrick Stewart) shows up, and starts plotting the band’s elimination in earnest.

This very violent, gory shocker has a terrifying plausibility, especially in its first half. We can see from the start that these idiots are in trouble, but we glimpse the overt mayhem they’ve blundered upon elliptically, and the response of their skinhead hosts to the situation feels real.

These aren’t a bunch of hyper-confident professional villains, like in a Die Hard movie—they’re scared too, and unsure about what to do next, and also on the stupid side, a deeply dangerous combination. Patrick Stewart hits just the right, loathsomely believable note as the harried proprietor frantic to protect a secret; it’s pretty clear that he uses Nazi ideology as a business tactic to maintain employee loyalty and retention.

Writer-director Jeremy Saulnier, of the excellent 2013 noir Blue Ruin, obviously had a bigger budget this time, as he could afford Stewart, as well as Anton Yelchin as the most reflective of The Ain’t Rights. He’s a smashing talent, though Green Room, like Blue Ruin, is stronger and more excruciatingly tense in its first half than its second. Sauliner seems to have a weakness for runaway bloody carnage and body counts that verge on comicality, perhaps intentionally.

The Jacobean final quarter of Green Room seems meant to be a little tongue-in-cheek, and if so this may show Saulnier’s shrewdness. Had he maintained the same atmosphere of doom and desperation, unvaried and unrelenting, for the whole movie’s length, Green Room might have been more convincing and harrowing, but it wouldn’t be such good nasty fun. Which, if you’re not too squeamish, is what it is.

Ratchet & ClankRatchet is a “lombax,” sort of a cat-like creature with ears like a fennec fox and a talent for mechanics, while Clank is his small robot pal. Their interplanetary adventures have, I understand, been popular among video gamers for more than a decade, so now they’re getting the computer-animated feature treatment.

I hadn’t heard of the game, so I’m in no position to comment on how the movie compares to it. On its own merits, however, I found it pretty slow and by-the-numbers, and its attempts at knowing humor mostly fall flat. On the other hand, it’s visually strong, with some pretty cool robot and alien designs.

Ratchet, voiced by James Alan Taylor, is a drearily standard yearning-for-glory underdog hero obligatory for this sort of film. The movie’s best element is Clank (David Kaye), a very polite and endearing robot. Had it simply been called Clank, it might have been livelier.

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