Red State – Review

21 Dec

Kevin Smith is a huge inspiration of mine as I’ve made clear with numerous past reviews. His name is synonymous with raunchy, yet smart, comedy. That’s why Red State is such an out of the blue movie for Smith. The long winded and quick dialogue is still there, but this is an intense action thriller/horror film that is aimed to shock and inspire thought. Even amongst all this, there is still some room for comedy.

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Three horny teenage boys are invited by an older woman named Sarah (Melissa Leo) to come to her house for a night of drinking and sex. The boys are thrilled until they realize their drinks have been drugged and the pass out. They awake to find themselves held hostage by the Five Points Trinity Church, a fanatical Christian group led by Abin Cooper (Michael Parks), who is using the boys as an example against sin. As the boys fight for their lives, the local police are alerted and inform the ATF who send a task force led by Agent Joseph Keenan (John Goodman). Negotiations end quickly as a firefight erupts…

It isn’t hard to believe that this is a Kevin Smith movie, despite the drastic change in genre. The character’s dialogue is as quick and as sharp as ever, filled with youthful cynicism and sarcastic commentary. That is until 20 minutes into the film where we meet Abin and his family. The audience is treated to an entire sermon said by Abin that goes on for quite a long time, but never gets dull. It’s a terrifying speech filled with a strange brew of hate towards others but also sweet love for his family. There are times where Smith injects his own brand of comedy that often works, but sometimes throws the mood off. There are some quick scenes of comedic dialogue between the ATF agents right before the firefight, which isn’t really the best time.

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The combination of genres is also pretty impressive. In the beginning, the movie fools the viewer into thinking that this is just another movie like Mallrats or Clerks. There’s a lot of talking and banter that doesn’t serve much purpose except to entertain. Then the movie gets scary with the Cooper family murdering a poor guy while preaching their hateful message. The genre changes again when the ATF force shows up and the massive shoot out starts. The shoot out is kind of odd. For a lot of it, you can only hear what’s going on, but can never see a whole lot of the action going on outside. We’re mostly stuck inside the house with the Coopers, while occasionally moving outside. It was an interesting way of filming. Speaking of filming, Red State was filmed on the Red camera system that allowed Smith to edit on the spot, but it also left the finished product looking digitally extra crisp.

Let’s look at the topical side of this movie. This isn’t a religious movie like Dogma is a religious movie. Red State is far more serious. The Five Points Trinity Church has a lot in common with the bastards at the Westboro Baptist Church. Now, I’m not saying that they kidnap and kill people, but the family in the movie protest at a funeral and share the same beliefs as WBC. The way the family follows Abin so unquestioningly can be compared to those at Jonestown, which truly ended in disaster. The point is that this isn’t totally fiction. There are fanatical groups in the world who would be willing to commit such atrocities as seen in this film. This is an action thriller that provides some food for thought.

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I really liked Red State a lot. Like a whole lot. It was great to see Kevin Smith leave his comfort zone and make a mature and brutal film about something that is all too real. The multiple genres, characters, and choices that this movie includes proves that it is intelligent and creative. It’s a great movie that I don’t think gets as much credit as it really should. Check out Red State.

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