Red State

Red State

(2011)

Horror-thriller from filmmaker Kevin Smith (Clerks), about a group of middle American teens who encounter violent, extreme religious fundamentalism. Stars Melissa Leo (The Fighter) and John Goodman (The Big Lebowski).... More

Never one to shy away from stirring up controversy, Smith leaves behind his comedy roots to tell the tale of three sexually-charged high schoolers who come across an online personal ad from an older woman looking for a gang bang and hit the road to satisfy their carnal urges. However, their fantasy turns sinister when Christian extremists with a fatal agenda, led by the twisted preacher Abin Cooper (Michael Parks, Kill Bill), hold them captive in a compound known as the Five Point Church.Hide

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BY fairbrother superstar

Like some other Kevin Smith movies, the casting is uneven and the dialogue is over-extended; but I have to admit Red State sucked me in and stuck with me long after it finished. Blunt and messy as it was, I still really liked it. The transitions of tone were jarring, but they were jarring because Red State manages to do something which too few movies manage to do: surprise us. It's hard to justify my rationale without giving too much away, but suffice it to say I was not expecting Red State to... More be so scary, nor so gripping, nor so outrageously cynical in it's final punch-line(s)... Some friends of mine thought the ending was a cop-out, and I imagine there'll be some who agree. For me it was a logical extension of the points the film had been making about America from the outset: this is a thriller, but it's also a nightmare comedy of hypocrisy, selective ignorance, and moral relativism. At the very least, this is a movie which will leave you talking once you leave the cinema.Hide


While some would argue that a truly great filmmaker is to be able to adapt their skills to almost any story, certain filmmakers seem to work best by locking themselves into a singular style, which they merely tweak here and there with each new film. For the last two decades, no director has been a better example of the latter type than Kevin Smith. To describe the type of films he makes, perhaps the simplest description is this: he makes 'Kevin Smith movies'. Low-budget, dialogue heavy low-brow... More comedy is his bread and butter, and on the few occasions where he's deviated from his formula (2004′s Jersey Girl, 2010′s Cop Out), the results have been mixed at best. With Red State however, Smith smashes all preconcieved notions about what he is capable of as a director, delivering an intense, fast-paced thriller. Red State feels like a film from an ambitious first time director, and in a sense it almost is. This is not a 'Kevin Smith movie', and precisely that reason makes it Smith's most interesting film in years.

That's not to say that Red State is a great movie, or even a good one. The story begins with three teenagers lured into temptation and subsequently captured by the Five Points Church, an extremist religious group led by the charismatic Abin Cooper (Michael Parks), and builds to a Branch Davidian style standoff between the church and authorities. Drawing comparison with David Koresh's tragic cult and, most obviously, the Westboro Baptist Church was clearly Smith's intent, yet he makes it clear that Cooper is neither Koresh nor even Westboro leader Fred Phelps. Cooper and his family are the terrifying extreme of two of right-wing America's most dangerous fascinations: faith and firearms. It's certainly inflammatory subject matter, yet Smith chooses to point the finger even further, implicating not only Cooper's warped ideas in the violence that occurs, but the authorities, in the form of the ATF, as well. The issues Smith wants to address are ripe for analysis, but having them all crammed in to a relatively brief 88 minutes unfortunately dilutes some of the film's impact. Red State's conclusion is also sure to divide opinion, as Smith himself seems to be unsure how to end the siege at the church and resorts to a ham-fisted deus ex machina ending that kills the suspense he built so well.

There are moments of greatness in Red State however. Parks' performance as Cooper is captivating as much as it is frightening, and the long sermon he delivers in the middle of the film is genuinely chilling. Just like a church member who stares raptly as Cooper quietly and calmly lectures on the evils in society, you just cannot take your eyes off Parks, a perfect piece of casting. Technically, Smith's direction is also something of a revelation. Never before has it seemed like he was even attempting to inject any dynamic style into the look of his work, yet with Red State Smith seems to be approaching film as a visual medium for the first time, with surprisingly competent results. How people feel about this film is likely to depend on how attached they are to Smith's usual style, but for viewers interested in seeing a director break out of their mold and really try to push their abilities, Red State has plenty to offer. Whether or not he continues to experiment with his next (and potentially final) film, the two-part hockey story Hit Somebody, it's refreshing to see that there's more to Kevin Smith's talent than he has previously shown us.

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BY PhilMoore superstar

I am the first to admit I am a Kevin Smith FanBoy from way back I have seen Clerks,MallRats,Dogma,Jay and Silent and Silent Bob Strike Back,Jersey Girl,Zach and Miri Make a Porno and Cop Out.. Anyway this is the the sort of return to form that Martin Scorsese had with The Departed, Quentin Tarantino with Inglourious Basterds,Clint Eastwood with Million Dollar Baby. Anyway this is a film about a few young school boys in middle America that through social networking find a woman through Twitter... More or Facebook and meet up with her. She then puts them in a cage and puts them in front a fanatical church that believe homosexuality and straying from what is considered the norm in society, that they deserve to die. These people are as bad as the Neo Nazi's only in a way done behind closed doors. The performances are amazing Michael Parks as the fanatical priest is the performance of his career, John Goodman is amazing as a tough guy cop fighting the underbelly of society and Kerry Bische from Scrubs fame is amazing and a future star. This film is not for the faint hearted, it is very realistic and very violent, and got some very strong religious views. Having said that it is not a criticism if anything it is just a warning to people that are not used to this kind of film. I absolutely loved the film, like Quentin Tarantino who said he freaking loved it.. well so did I, It's possible he loved it more than I did, and maybe so.. but this is one of my favourite films of the year so far.. I say that because I have a lot more movies I want to see before the 2011 season is over.. but I don't see there being much of a better film than thisHide


BY Abe213 grader

I very much enjoyed this film. Even though the pacing was, at times, a bit disconcerting the action and performances more than made up for it. All i have to say is 'Kevin Smith where have you been?!'


The Press Reviews

59% of critics recommend.
Rotten Tomatoes Score. More reviews on Rotten Tomatoes

  • Red State is gloriously unencumbered by fidelity to genre conventions, which lends it a thrilling element of unpredictability even when the action frequently grows shrill and heavy-handed. Full Review

  • This is one of those movies that's "interesting" rather than ˜"good". Smith has so much solid material to deliver that it's a shame the package is so sloppily wrapped. Full Review

  • Red State is cleverly contrarian enough to get a rise out of almost any audience. Full Review

  • For all its boisterous profanity and splattery violence, the film is more of a weary sigh than a sputtering volley of indignation. Full Review

  • A brave attempt from Smith to break away from dialogue-heavy comedy, Red State doesn’t lack for ideas. What it does lack is an ability to execute them sharply. Full Review

  • This sloppily constructed horror-thriller lacks the satirical bite and action chops to skewer extreme-right-wing zealots with the gusto Smith clearly feels they deserve, instead evincing the verbal incontinence and slack tension that have long dogged the writer-director's work. Full Review

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