The Siege of Darcy's Farm
Movies that sell become ever more extreme, the one-upmanship growing more challenging. Violence, the visual kind, is ratcheted up in quantity and in in-your-face. Whether this reflects society or is opportunism or contributes to escalating real-life bloodiness, is debated. What is nonetheless evident is that moviegoers eat it up, as do critics, borne out by recent gore and demolition-derby box office smashes, and now director-writer Jeremy Saulnier follows up his applauded revenge schlub Blue Ruin with no-humor brutality in Green Room.
Indicative of a societal sea change is that not just the fanboy demographic praises the red splatter, but older folks and 2015 Cannes, too, as well as reviewers. And that Sir Patrick Stewart steps out of character as “an absolute evil bastard, the lead villain. We got flat-out lucky.” Only the fewest of holdout snobs recoil in horror.
The title refers to the dingy graffiti-ed space in which punk rock band The Ain’t Rights barricade themselves while vile right-wingers and their attack dogs batter at the doors and the kids’ psyches. Joined by Imogen Poots’s local Amber and, later, a sympathetic attacker, these ordinary good guys are not the stuff of action heroes but just frightened youngsters who make some awfully bad choices. Out of their depth, they fight by instinct like cornered animals rather than strongmen or cunning adversaries. Behind the green door, they pay the price.
Backstory absent, it is left unclear as to what exactly is the nasty business of this skinhead commune in the Oregon boonies. There are piles of weapons, though cool whispery boss Darcy Banker (Stewart) wants no trouble with law enforcement and therefore no or minimal gunfire, and basement shelves of chemicals may indicate a lab for compounding drugs less for sale than to keep his paramilitary storm troopers high as in actuality has been done in historical wars.
Not making gas money for their decrepit van, Sam, Pat, Reece and Tiger (Alia Shawkat, Anton Yelchin, Joe Cole, Callum Turner) siphon from a parked vehicle. They get $6.87 apiece for an unsuccessful gig and are angered but compensated with a referral on to another one, where the story plays out. “I love one-location movies,” says the filmmaker. Bunker, or siege, mentality is what it is all about, punctuated with graphic eviscerations and slashings but not as many body bags needed as in many other recent splatter-fests. Any number of classics or run-of-the-mill Westerns, war, police, martial arts, horror or science fiction titles come to mind, where audiences can root for the small group surrounded and besieged by various sorts of enemies.
In this particular genre film, however, the un-heroes do not make witty quips and do realize that they are not the punk toughs of their would-be image and imaginations. Their very ordinariness and ineptitude elicit empathy, even if Pat’s one-shot pistol accuracy is a stretch or just plain luck. “If the audience can recognize something of themselves, it not only makes the story feel more relatable, it makes it feel more dangerous, too.’’
Jamaica Inn-scary out of today’s headlines, the woodland skinhead refuge is not a hideaway, for police know about it, and though the place is awash in swastikas and SS paraphernalia, it exhibits no recognizable sociopolitical stance or biker fetish. Regular gatherings, raucous music, beer and rough trade are the reasons for the call to this third-tier band. The gig itself pays, but their bad luck is to catch sight of something they ought not to have seen.
The four of course cannot be permitted to leave, whine and promise what they will. Thus, the exciting force for the conflict that moves to claustrophobia and fear, calculation and improvisation, interrupted by bursts of dark mayhem, with neither side as tough or clever as it thinks or hopes. For a movie of its type, everything is acceptable enough; good or bad, however, will depend on whether one cares to watch such raw hysterical darkness, and whether it is worth watching. Against the tide, this voice crying in the wilderness says, no, it isn’t.
(Released by A24 and rated “R” for strong brutal graphic violence, gory images, language and some drug content.)