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Face-Off: Blue Ruin vs. Green Room

07.27.2016by: Cody Hamman
I'm a big fan of director Jeremy Saulnier's 2007 horror/comedy MURDER PARTY, so after a lengthy wait to find out what he would follow that film up with I have been very glad to see him having success and earning critical acclaim with his second and third films, 2013's BLUE RUIN and 2015's GREEN ROOM. With GREEN ROOM having recently hit home video (buy it on Amazon!), I thought it would be fun to put Saulnier's two color-titled movies against each other for this week's Face-Off.
STORY
When he hears that his parents' murderer has been released from prison, a man who has been living in a self-imposed exile returns to his home town to deal out some vengeful vigilante justice. This sparks a violent blood feud, as the convict's family set out to get their personal revenge rather than get the police involved. Twists, turns, and bloodshed ensue over the course of a simple, deliberately paced story.
The Ain't Rights are a punk band barely scraping by while on the road - they even have to siphon gas to get their van from venue to venue. Seeking compensation after a disastrous gig, they agree to play at a remote bar run and frequented by white supremacists. When they witness the aftermath of a murder, they find themselves trapped in the bar, surrounded by people who want them dead. It's a classic "siege movie" set-up.
PROTAGONISTS
Macon Blair puts in an incredible performance as Dwight Evans, a man who has lost his social skills over years spent living in a car, breaking into houses to wash up, and eating out of dumpsters. His sister describes him as weak - he is not fit at all for the violent situation he finds himself in the middle of. Along the way, he gets some assistance from Devin Ratray as a former high school buddy who served in the military, another great character.
The Ain't Rights are just young musicians who find themselves in a terrible situation. They're not all that capable of defending themselves, they don't fare well in confrontations, and they're scared witless. Anton Yelchin's character Pat emerges as the lead protagonist, one of the most passive heroes you're likely to find. He's not one for violence. It's good for him that he's able to team with a tougher character, Imogen Poots as local girl Amber.
ANTAGONISTS
The Clelands, the family Dwight finds himself at war with, aren't given a lot of screen time to come across as fleshed out characters. They're just very angry country folk who don't think much of killing other people, but don't take it well when they lose one of their own. A fellow named Teddy is the Cleland we get to know best, and he's not a pleasant person.
Patrick Stewart brings a chilling gravitas to the role of white supremacist group leader Darcy, who meticulously plots out exactly how to handle the Ain't Rights problem. He has a lot of dedicated soldiers under his command, including a man who sends in his fight dogs after the kids and BLUE RUIN star Macon Blair as a man who recently joined the movement.
VIOLENCE
The violence in BLUE RUIN consists of stabbings and shootings that are handled in a very down-to-earth, realistic way. Most of them have severe consequences. At one point, Dwight tries to take care of an arrow wound in a typical movie hero way, but he just can't pull it off and ends up in the hospital.
Some of the gore doesn't look entirely convincing, but there is some very gruesome imagery in GREEN ROOM; injuries and murder methods designed to be shocking and make the viewer cringe. There are torn out throats, stomachs slit open, gun shot wounds, and most memorably an arm hacked with blades.
COLOR
It's clear that Jeremy Saulnier is not interested in spelling things out for the viewer. We're left to piece it together on our own that the "blue ruin" of the title is the busted old car Dwight has been living in, the car his parents were killed in. Given that he has been a depressed wreck since their murder, Dwight himself could also be the blue ruin.
The title of GREEN ROOM is pretty simple and straightforward. "Green room" is a term used for the room that performers hang out in before and after taking the stage, and the green room at this bar is where Amber and the Ain't Rights end up being trapped for the majority of the film's running time. It may not be the coolest title, but it's certainly a fitting one.
GREEN ROOM
As is often the case with a Face-Off, this was a very close competition, as BLUE RUIN and GREEN ROOM are both really great films that stand out from the pack due to the low-key tone Jeremy Saulnier captures with them, and his particular style of storytelling. When it comes down to the wire, however, I have to give GREEN ROOM a slight edge - while both films warrant multiple viewings, GREEN ROOM is the one that I will be watching more often.

Is that the case for you as well, or do you think BLUE RUIN should have taken the win? Share your thoughts on these films by leaving a comment below. Are you a fan of Saulnier's? Have you seen MURDER PARTY? (If you haven't, I highly recommend that you seek it out this October, as it's a perfect movie for Halloween viewing.)

As always, suggestions for future Face-Offs can be sent to me at CodyHamman@joblo.com.

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