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I had the honor of seeing a screening of Red State last night at Laser
Pacific in Hollywood as part of the Red State of the Union film school
program Kevin Smith held.
Prior to going in, I refused to read any of the Sundance screening reviews of the film because I wanted to avoid spoilers and go in with a fresh experience. I had high expectations and I was not disappointed.
The film begins with sort of the stereotypical horror movie formula, teenagers go out looking for sex and find themselves staring death in the face. However, what happens to them in Red State is a far departure from your standard Jason or Michael Myers flick. The film is hardly a stereotypical horror movie. In fact, Kevin Smith deliberately goes out of his way in this film to keep it far from the typical story arch and structure of most studio movies. Just when you think you know what is going to happen next, Smith hits you with another twist and surprise. This film is completely unpredictable and unforgiving of its characters.
I must congratulate Mr. Smith on the exceptional camera-work and editing in this picture. This is by far the best looking Kevin Smith movie to date. The constant use of hand held cameras and creative cutting, keeps you on the edge of your seat the entire time. I think a fair comparison would be Rob Zombie's "The Devil's Rejects" or parts of the original "Texas Chainsaw Massacre". Also, the film has no musical underscore. It uses ambiance and sound effects in place which works beautifully for this film. Most films use music to enhance the mood and make you feel a certain way. In this film, you can tell Kevin Smith doesn't care how you feel and wants you to just sit there and take it.
The cast is also spectacular. Michael Parks steals the show. Also John Goodman delivers the goods and has a lot more screen time than the teaser trailer suggests.
All in all, I think this film is one of the best films I have seen in the last few years. With everything being computer generated these days, it refreshing to see a small practical film like this which still holds as much power as one of the big boy studio flicks. And for those of you worrying about the political or religious messages, there aren't any. This movie does not preach religious views to you nor does it take any kind of political side. Its plain and simple. This is just a horror movie about a family of psychos. The fact that they are religious just adds to the terror.
The movie also features one of the best endings ever.
OK. So after reading the other reviews and deciding to watch this based
on the positive reports, I feel compelled to offer a more realistic
First of all, this is not the masterpiece it's made out to be. A lot of Kevin Smith fanboys seem reluctant to give him a bad review.
So here we go, it's a bit of a mess really. It seems to be getting a lot of praise for switching genres but honestly, it just comes across as confused. Yes, the performances are pretty good and some of the camera work is exceptional (the escape/chase scene is noteworthy) but overall it's almost like three films in one. This might sound like a good thing but not the way it's presented here.
And as for everybody trying to get clever over the title, the meaning is pretty clear to me. It refers to both the political and the government angle that the authorities can lock any suspected terrorist up for an indefinite time. A la communist/red states.
Overall, some good performances, memorable dialogue and decent cinematography fail to save this confused mess.
OK, so as part of Kevin Smith's guerrilla marketing campaign for this
movie, it aired on PPV in the US last night. That means that it was on
the torrentnet this morning, and as a result I got to watch it in
Europe tonight. I'm still reeling from the experience.
I mean, we are talking Kevin Smith, king of the slacker movies, but at the same time the creator of one of the most intelligent and well-done movies about religion ever made, "Dogma." I have seen every one of Kevin Smith's films, some of them multiple times. But as much as I like the guy, I've never found myself asking, "What would happen if this guy decided to step away from the slacker comedy and make a serious movie -- a horror movie about America, as he sees it?" I never saw this movie coming.
"Red State" is at its heart a horror movie. It starts by playing to horror movie conventions. Three teenaged guys, off for a night of fun in a neighboring Southern town, follow an Internet ad promising them a three-way with a willing older woman, and as a result wander into the WRONG Southern town. This town is the home of a Chrisschun religious cult, and they placed the ad. Try to imagine what the gay-hating and sex-hating Westboro Baptist Church would be like if they decided to take God's Law into their own hands and start killing the sinners themselves. Then try to imagine the situation escalating into a machine-gun-fire standoff with the ATF. What makes this such a good horror movie is that the horror could actually happen in the US. Everything about this movie is shocking *because it could actually happen*.
Kevin Smith is a closet politco. Who knew? This is a very, very, very powerful movie, about the hell that the United States of America has descended into post-9/11. It is SO not a comedy, although it contains very funny moments, and it is SO not for the faint-hearted, or for those who lean heavily to the right politically, or who believe that doing so is synonymous with leaning to the Right. God's Right.
With this film, Kevin Smith has risen to the top of my list of People I Most Want To Share Two Too Many Beers With Just So I Can Talk With Them.
I've never considered myself a Kevin Smith fan. While I liked
"Mallrats", what I've seen of his other works has left me unimpressed.
When I heard he would be tackling a horror film, I wasn't exactly
enthused by the prospect, though horror is easily my favorite genre. In
fact, I had pretty much forgotten about it until I came across a
trailer online. That trailer, combined with the solid cast Smith was
able to line up, changed my tune, so I was excited to see the film
available on pay-per-view. After watching it, I can safely say that
it's Smith's best film to date, which in itself isn't the highest of
praise. However, it's also one of the best films I've seen all year.
Through an online ad, three teenage boys find a woman who is willing to have sex with all three of them at the same time. They go off to meet her, but it turns out to be a ploy, and they soon find themselves held captive in the rural compound of Abin Cooper and his fundamentalist religious cult. Cooper's group, known as the Five Points Church, is well-known for protesting at funerals of gays and causing various other commotions due to their beliefs. However, the true extent of how far they're willing to go due to the demoralization of America will soon be known to their three captives.
Smith's films have always been heavy on dialogue, and "Red State" is certainly no different. The dialogue here, though, is no laughing matter, particularly as Abin Cooper delivers a lengthy, vitriol-laced sermon to his flock. Michael Parks ("The Evictors", "From Dusk Til Dawn") has been around for a long time, but never has he been more on top of his game than he is here as the Five Points Church matriarch. You hear hyperbolic terms like "tour de force" thrown around all the time, but Parks' performance in this film is one that truly deserves to be described as such. The hateful conviction with which Cooper gives his sermon and the psychotic glee when he belittles those who don't share his beliefs are scarily real thanks to the strength of Parks, who never misses a beat.
The dialogue and film in general are clearly Smith's take on Fred Phelps and his infamous Westboro Baptist Church, but the film switches gears midway through and throws in some commentary on the Waco/Branch Davidian fiasco as well with the introduction of John Goodman as Joseph Keenan, an ATF agent poised to take out Cooper and his clan. After the local sheriff gets wind of the church's murderous activities, he contacts Keenan, who has been watching the group for quite some time. Keenan leads several ATF agents to the compound for a simple in and out, but after his second in command is shot dead, his superiors inform him that no one is to leave the compound alive, hostages and children included.
From here, the film takes more of an action turn as opposed to the horror-oriented first half. We bare witness to a thrilling shootout as Keenan struggles with his conscience and unlikely allies inside the compound try to find a way to bring the children to safety. Anyone familiar with the events in Waco or documentaries on the incident, such as the infuriating "Waco: The Rules of Engagement", will definitely see the parallels between the real life happenings and what goes on here. Smith's film is just as much an indictment against the ATF and government B.S. as it is against those who give religious people a bad name.
Goodman gives the other great performance of the film as the ATF agent stuck between a rock and a hard place. While his confliction is evident even after he relents and follows the orders of his superiors, he really shines in his final scene where he must explain the events to two government officials. I've always been a huge fan of Goodman's, and his monologue in this scene is some of the best acting of his career. Indeed, belief is a powerful thing. It's what you choose to do with it that defines you.
Also in the cast are Academy Award winner, Melissa Leo, as Abin's daughter, Kevin Pollak in a "mind-blowing" cameo and the always quirky Stephen Root as the troubled sheriff. Smith assembled quite the cast for this venture. Independently financed, the method of release for this film has been odd to say the least, but I'm just happy to have seen it. The tone of the film is sporadic, always shifting and keeping the viewer off kilter. There is a little humor thrown in too, as is to be expected with Smith, but this is a pretty serious picture overall. If I had one qualm with it, it's the whole explanation for the trumpet bit, which seemed a little out there and overcomplicated. Other than that, I thoroughly enjoyed what Smith delivered here.
If what I've heard is true, and Kevin Smith is intending to retire from filmmaking after his next movie, at least he went out with a bang. "Red State" is a successful change of pace.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
If nothing else, Red State is memorable. A trio of horny teenage boys
gets baited and captured by an armed to the teeth fanatical cult. The
attempted escape of two of them precipitates a Waco on steroids violent
showdown between the cult in their compound and ATF agents outside that
have botched the situation and are ordered to take drastic measures to
clean up their mistake.
As a horror movie, it's pretty decent, but it sort of fizzles out by the finale, and the ending is something you'll either think is clever or not as clever as Kevin Smith thought it was. Red State earned enough goodwill from me during its disturbing first half to carry me through its trigger-happy, tone-shifted latter half and earn it a slightly positive rating. Check it out to sate your curiosity, but don't expect to be blown away.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
First of all i'd like to mention from all reviews i read the best one
is from user "dean2804" with whom i agree 100%.
Having said that, yes this movie is a mess. The good or the bad way? Well basically the mediocre way. Its 3 movies all presented in one: begins as a typical thriller with religious Christian psychos a-la "God hates gays so we kill them all", continues as a war/action and concludes as political.
The GOOD: nice work by the actors, camera, music, direction. Loved them all. Nice character development, not even one of them is a "random character just waiting to die" type. Really good job on changing the film from thriller/action/political without annoying the audience. Explains pretty much everything in the end, plain and clear.
The BAD: The "echo sound" at the end of the movie was useless & almost hilarious as an explanation. Simply put, just ignore it. Although liked the film & kept me till the end, i felt there was something missing. It was an OK film, but for some reason lacked the "wow" factor.
OVERALL: i'd suggest you to check it. You won't regret it and even if you don't like the whole film, at least you'll enjoy some of its parts.
I'm going to be honest with you: I've never watched a Kevin Smith film
other than this one. Yes, go ahead, have problems with that. But that's
not why we're here. I'm telling you this so you know that I had
absolutely no expectations of this film coming in, other than that a
friend of mine told me it was very thought-provoking.
And she was right.
I think "Red State" is an unappreciated gem of a film. Coming from the perspective of being fascinated with the Westboro Baptist Church, I especially got into it. If you don't know about the Westboro Baptist Church prior to watching the movie, you need to look them up. Because much of the film is based around a religious sect that is quite similar. In fact, Abin Cooper (brilliantly played by Michael Parks) gives a sermon in the film that essentially quotes the WBC's beliefs verbatim. It's hard to believe that people can actually believe this stuff--but they do. And that is what makes this story truly frightening. My favorite horrors are based enough in reality to be believable--as a matter of fact, I think something MUST be believable in order for it to be scary. "Red State" is not scary because it has monsters or buckets of gore. It is scary because it is probable: there is nothing more frightening than the terrible things human beings are capable of doing if they choose to.
In reading other reviews, I have noticed that many people criticized "Red State" for being all over the place or inconsistent. I didn't see that at all. Frankly, I appreciated the Coen-brothers-esque comedic breaks. John Goodman, especially, brought up some fond memories of "The Big Lebowski"-type humor. But I never felt that these breaks took away from the film or made it any less compelling.
Another note, and I mentioned this before with Michael Parks, is that I thought the acting in "Red State" verged on superb. Parks' performance as pastor Abin Cooper was spot-on, and the rest of the cast followed suit. The story was put together well, with a nice but brief intro and a plot that never felt too forced. I was pleasantly surprised at the way the story was wrapped up, too, even though it probably wouldn't count as a typical "happy ending." But stories like this don't typically have those anyway, do they?
To sum up: I wasn't expecting a lot from this movie. Negative reviews gave me low expectations. But, as usual, my curiosity got the best of me and I couldn't help but check it out for myself. "Red State" is a movie that I can genuinely say pleasantly surprised me. It is a little off the beaten path, slightly unorthodox, and subtly disturbing. But I loved it.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
On the way to school, Travis (Michael Angarano) notices members of the
Five Points Church, led by Abin Cooper (Michael Parks) protesting the
funeral of a local gay teenager who was found murdered. During Travis'
first class, his teacher talks about how Cooper and his church had
their town ridiculed for his actions and beliefs. Later, Jared (Kyle
Gallner), a friend of Travis, reveals he received an invitation from a
woman he met on a sex site for group sex with himself, Travis and Billy
Ray (Nicholas Braun). They borrow Travis' parent's car and travel out
into the country to meet with the woman.
Along the way, they accidentally sideswipe the vehicle of Sheriff Wynan (Stephen Root), while he was engaged in a homosexual affair in his car. Afraid, the boys drive off. Sheriff Wynan returns to the station and tells his deputy Pete (Matt L. Jones) to go and look for the vehicle. Meanwhile, the boys arrive at the trailer of the woman who sent out the invitation, Sarah Cooper (Melissa Leo). She encourages them to drink, and after being drugged by the beer, they pass out while undressing. Jared wakes up while being moved in a covered cage. He realizes he is in the sanctuary at Five Points after he identifies Cooper. Cooper begins a long, hate-filled sermon before identifying another captive, a homosexual they lured in through an internet chat room. They bind him to a cross using saran wrap, violently execute him with a revolver and drop him into a small crawl space where Travis and Billy Ray are bound together.
Cooper then begins binding Jared to the cross, but stops when he notices Pete driving up to the church. Travis and Billy Ray use a protruding bone from the corpse to cut themselves free, which is heard by Caleb (Ralph Garman). He lifts up the trap door just in time to see Billy Ray escape and begins after him. Billy Ray is not able to help Travis out of his tight saran wrap cuffs and leaves him for dead. Caleb chases Billy Ray while passing Travis into a room stocked with weapons, where the two end up shooting and killing each other. Pete hears the gunshots and calls Wynan for back-up, but is shot and killed by Mordechai (James Parks). Cooper then blackmails Wynan, telling him to stay away or he will reveal Wynan's homosexuality to his wife. In despair, Wynan calls ATF Agent Joseph Keenan (John Goodman), who begins setting up outside of the church.
While the family mourn Caleb, Travis (who had broken free and feigned death alongside Billy Ray's corpse) arms himself and makes a run for it, eventually making it outside where he is shot and killed by Wynan, who mistook him for a member of the congregation. Keenan tries to reason with the family but a shoot-out erupts instead after one Keenan's men is shot in the head. In the midst of the shooting, Agent Keenan receives a call from ATF higher-ups ordering him to start a full raid of the complex to ensure that no witnesses remain of the operation, and no one can tell of their mess up. Another tactical agent named "Harry" (Kevin Alejandro) struggles with this decision and argues with Keenan in private against doing this. Keenan coldly dismisses Harry's protests for personal reasons -- rationalizing his decision based on personal gain and the reputation of the ATF -- and Harry storms off in disgust. During the shoot-out, Cheyenne (Kerry Bishé) unbinds Jared, begging him to help her hide the children.
Jared coldly refuses due to the fact that the church is evil and had killed both his best friends, and the argument turns into a fight. Sarah notices them and attacks Jared. Cheyenne tries to break up the fight and accidentally shoots Sarah in the process, killing her. Jared, realizing no matter what he does he will end up dead, helps Cheyenne hide the children. They run outside to plead with Keenan to spare the children but are brutally shot and murdered by Tactical Agent Harry, who has come around to accepting Keenan's rationales, though Keenan is now visibly disturbed the reality of this outcome and Harry's actions. The shoot-out is then suddenly interrupted when a mysterious loud trumpet ominously blast echos across the sky.
If "Red State" proves one thing it is that Kevin Smith is a much better writer than he is a director. In the comedy genre, direction only matters so much. If the jokes aren't there, what can a director do? He can't make "nothing" funny. In the horror genre, the role of the director is key. He is responsible for the scares, the pacing, the thrills, and the overall tone of the movie. "Red State" works as written but the film as directed is a bit of a mess. Far too many characters, a limp, lackluster editing, and too many "Kevin Smith type" characters. I kept thinking how a movie like this would be directed in the hands of a more accomplished filmmaker who could get a hold of the subject matter such as Rob Zombie. I appreciate the effort here and the performances are all uniformally good but it all adds up to very little.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
I am extremely surprised, reading through some of the other reviews -
so many people seemed to like this movie, and I just don't see it at
all. It was awful.
None of the characters shown in the first half hour of the movie were alive for the last fifteen minutes of it. They did a complete cast rotation, which made so little sense as I watched this train wreck, that I considered closing up my laptop in frustration.
There were scenes in the movie (like the sermon, and the explanation for the trumpet soundings at the end) that went on so long that it became comical. The screenwriters took some serious indulgences during the crafting of this script, and not artistically either. Just lengthy monologues which served little purpose besides tying the flimsy plot together.
In the absence of fractions I give this movie a begrudging 1 out of 10, though it really doesn't deserve that.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
WOW, really bad, and surprising coming from such a big name as Kevin Smith. Damn he should stick to bad comedies with a crap load of dialog because horror movies about a Christian extremist sect are not his strong point. John Goodman, what were you thinking, are you broke? if so sell stuff on ebay but don't ruin your name, come on really, how does a dude enter an armory full of weapons, grab one then stand in the middle of the room waiting to get shot, terrible. The end, i don't want to spoil it in case someone has an hour and a half to throw away, OMG is it bad. You would be better off spending the time staring at the sun with a telescope, way better ending.
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