‘Greenlight’ 2020 Movie Review: How It Got the Green Light Is Anyone’s Guess

In Greenlight, a down on his luck director — jumping from one production assistant gig to the next, all offering minimal to no pay — receives a career-changing opportunity to helm his first feature film. All is well until the man in charge requests he films a real-life murder, taking out one of the actors involved in the production. The concept behind Greenlight is original, equally eerie and suspenseful, yet falling short of its psychological thriller kin, the execution drowns in over-the-top dialogue and predictability. 

Greenlight
Greenlight | The Horror Collective

‘Greenlight’ takes too long to get to the point, and when it finally arrives, you could care less

Though boasting a modest 84-minute runtime, Greenlight suffers from an extended exposition. In a futile attempt to build character dynamics and establish a bond between the viewer and the soon-to-be victims of a big-wig bad guy, the writers resort to two-dimensional personifications. 

There is the wannabe director’s supportive girlfriend. And, don’t forget about her parents; they don’t approve of her boyfriend, who needs to get “a real job.” Her parents exist as mere devices, reminding the audience that he has yet to catch his break. They are not people; they are pawns adding to the main character’s struggle, yet detracting from, if not erasing this movie’s potential for any depth beyond the one-road narrative — the one road narrative it’s still taking too long to bring to a boil. 

In a short movie, the thrills should come in quick, and after a half-hour, the movie retains its snail-like pace; the actors in the film may be working on The Sleep Experiment, but the viewers at home are doing all in their power to stay awake. The progression is muddied and dull, and when the movie finally kicks into high-gear, it has failed to inspire sympathy, so you could care less what happens to those involved. 

And, if two-dimensional characters and a lack of intriguing sub-plots aren’t enough, the movie resorts to dialogic exchanges worthy of an eye roll, as the language is, at best, corny. At worst, it is reminiscent of parody films designed to mock the very genre this film operates within. 

If you’re going to have rough dialogue, you better have convincing actors… 

Are you as serious as a “heart attack?” Did you know that trying to make it in showbiz will “steal your soul and break your heart?” These are the kinds of cliche idioms and expressions running rampant in a film about filming a low-budget horror film. The irony — the low budget gig the director is working on seems better than the one at hand.

While banal interactions are a problem, great actors can still deliver such trite language with conviction, making their vapid essence somehow stimulating and original. Unfortunately, Greenlight isn’t working with such talent. The actors do not necessarily phone it in, but injecting life into such a subpar script is a challenge — a challenge that no one seemed ready, willing, or able to rise to. 

One of the most accomplished creators of all time, Stephen Sondheim once wrote, “Having just the vision is no solution, everything depends on execution.” Here, an admirable idea failed when it came to putting it together.