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The Energy Can’t Last: On the Grimy American Fringes of Jeremy Saulnier | Features


The rhythm of “Green Room” then becomes defined by one step forward, two steps back, as the Ain’t Rights make attempt after attempt to escape and are thwarted, over and over again, by Darcy and his enforcers. Their rigid sense of decorum, and how they insist on running this outpost of militant hate as a business, is formed by both years of operating within the law and an inflexible belief that their way is the right way. They correct the Ain’t Rights’ grammar, renaming them as the “Aren’t Rights” on the venue’s marquee. Darcy exclusively addresses the band as “gentlemen,” ignoring Sam. Darcy’s second in command Clark (Kai Lennox) is irritated by how much getting rid of the Ain’t Rights is costing them: “Still gotta keep the books,” he complains when Gabe signs out $350 to pay the band, and then $600 to pay off two “true believers” willing to stab themselves to lure the police away so that Darcy can set in motion their elaborate cover story. The attack dogs Clark has trained, which Darcy enlists to maul and kill the Ain’t Rights, cost money, too—thousands of dollars each. While the Ain’t Rights are fighting for their lives, Darcy’s primary concern is how this all will hurt his bottom line: “This might cost you your livelihood, Clark. As long as it doesn’t cost me mine, you’re covered,” he says. And so once Darcy finds the band’s gas-siphoning kit, a narrative forms: This reckless band trespassed on Darcy’s private property, which had a “Beware of Dog” sign. They broke the law and tried to steal gasoline from Darcy because they were stupid and desperate and poor. And what other choice did Darcy have than to set his dog upon these intruders? He didn’t know what these young punks were capable of. He was, as he tells the Ain’t Rights, “within my rights to intervene,” and if some of them died as a result of his self-defense, oh well.

“Don’t talk politics,” Tad had warned the Ain’t Rights, but Darcy’s people have no such qualms. “This is a movement, not a party,” Darcy says, and he approaches getting rid of the Ain’t Rights with the cynical knowledge of a man who can wrap himself in the persona of an American entrepreneur, and use that self-preservation as an asset. The only way to fight back against something like that, then, is to do what the Ain’t Rights have always done: refuse to play the game. They can’t trust that Gabe actually called the police, or that the police will actually arrive. They can’t trust Darcy, who presents himself as such a reasonable man. They have to use whatever weapons they can, and they have to make noise. They’re probably going to die anyway, so why not make it as inconvenient for Darcy as possible? When Pat and Amber are the only members of the Ain’t Rights party left alive, they go all in. They Sharpie their faces in camo designs. They count how many bullets are fired at them and yell commands back and forth to each other. They take Gabe as a hostage—and are now so transformed by their experience that navigating the forest toward Darcy’s residence comes easily to them, the natural world’s ominous impenetrability their asset. And when they track the remaining neo-Nazis to the crime scene Darcy is rigging up to blame the Ain’t Rights, Pat is disgusted by the mistake Darcy makes in staging the gas siphoning: “It looks fishy to me. The cloth is to make a seal. I wouldn’t do it like that.” It’s a telling little moment that reveals Darcy’s lack of knowledge regarding the lifestyle he’s denigrating, and it shatters the fear Pat held toward him: “It’s funny. You were so scary last night.” When Amber and Pat kill Darcy, they do it together, closing the circle of violence that had spread wider and wider over the course of only one night.

Is this a happy ending? Maybe. Pat and Amber staying alive after the events of “Green Room” seems theoretically better than Dwight’s death at the end of “Blue Ruin.” But Pat and Amber now have to live with the murders of their best friends, and as they listen on the radio to Tad’s interview with the Ain’t Rights from just the other day, Saulnier is reminding us: Those people are gone. That time is over. Pat finally decides who his desert island band will be, but he has no one with whom to share that information: “Tell somebody who gives a shit,” Amber says. Is Pat’s choice the Ain’t Rights themselves? Is it Minor Threat, whose T-shirt Pat was wearing? Is it Creedence Clearwater Revival, whose “Sinister Purpose” closes out the film: “Sinister purpose/Knocking at your door/Come and take my hand”? Maybe it’s one of those, or maybe it’s none of them. We’re never going to know, and Pat’s never going to be the same, and America’s disgust toward the working poor, which Darcy was going to use to protect himself from blame? That hasn’t changed yet.

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