02 November 2011

Red State

Red State

Starring Michael Parks, John Goodman, Melissa Leo, Kyle Gallner, Michael Angarano, Nicholas Braun
Written & Directed by Kevin Smith
Release: 01 September 2011
SModcast Pictures, 88 mins., Rated R

Plot: Three teens are held captive by religious fundamentalist Abin Cooper and members of his Five Points Church, and are meant to die for their sinning nature.

Right around the time Kevin Smith was prepping Clerks II, info starting popping up about a script he wrote that was unlike anything he had ever written. Called Red State, he called it a "different kind of horror movie." Here we are, two films later, and we finally have the film in our hands. All the hype surrounding it, all the anticipation, and it's finally here. And because of that anticipation and expectation, Red State unfortunately fails to be as good as it probably is.

The movie is good. Unlike many reviews suggest, the film knows exactly what it is. The pacing and clear story divide is very deliberate, and, I feel, actually quite effective. The story evolved from its thriller/horror roots and instead became an all-out bullet melee. Enjoyment aside - and I did, enjoy - the film just didn't seem to push the boundaries enough, for me. It's one of those instances where the film, good as it is, failed to deliver on its own premise. Three horny teenage boys caged by Abin Cooper and his ministry to pay for their sins in front of the congregation is a horrifying scenario, and Smith could have easily milked it to make everything more intense, more cruel, more effective. In fact, with the exception of a number of unexpected deaths, Red State seems to play it safe, weirdly enough.

To the films detriment, and it pains me to say this, but Abin Cooper and his flock don't come across as actual, dimensional characters/people. They feel like caricatures, the result of some sort of Looney Tunes sketch mixing some swearing and blood into the equation. I knew this was a possibility, but I assumed that Smith, being an intelligent writer and possessing a keen knack for writing exquisite dialogue and very real characters, would overcome such a hurdle. Unfortunately, because of the caricature feeling that comes from the people of Five Points Church, they don't come across nearly as threatening as they should, especially Cooper. I will say that all reports about Michael Parks being splendid in the role are indeed true, but that doesn't stop him from not coming across as a legitimate threat. It sucks Smith's script failed to give these characters dimension, but in the grand scheme of the whole movie, it could be argued it wasn't entirely necessary. By the fifty minute mark Red State becomes an all-out blood war, where every life is expendable. The characterization of Cooper's clan is secondary to the bullets and the plot points.

In the category of dialogue, Smith once again doesn't disappoint. Especially when the ATF come into the scene, the dialogue is classic Smith. One of my favorite exchanges of the year occurs around the 50 minute mark when Goodman and his right-hand man are trying to communicate with Cooper and his clan.

But all in all, despite my affection for Parks, my love for Kevin Smith, and my general good feeling towards Red State, it just doesn't feel like enough. Incomplete, would be a good word for it. And I don't mean to say that Smith should have lingered at the war zone instead of cutting to a dialogue heavy scene; I think the last act is fine. Just the whole movie doesn't reach the heights of greatness, of horror, of tension, that it should. All this being said, Red State is a movie that I wouldn't hesitate to recommend to fans of Kevin Smith. However, I wager it has a very specific audience, and a large portion of people will have no inclination to check out a film that has fowl-mouthed horny teens, crazy religious nuts, blood splatter, and really no message in the end. But hell, it's still worth seeing.

Rating: 7.5/10 - Not Smith's best outing, but there enough done right to make Red State worth checking out, from script to screen, it's a labor of love, and feels like it.

1 comment:

threeguys1movie.com said...

Nice review, I see this is availabl on Netflix instant so I am going to have to give it a try. enjoyed checking out your blog.