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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 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.
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.
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.
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.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Great Cast, Weak A&& story. A lot of gimmicky red meat, heart string
pulling, morality play. I would expect a whole lot more from almost any
other director except Kevin Smith. He manages to take a great cast with
a really good potential story, and turn it into a typical Kevin Smith
schmaltzy pile of nonsensical, who is the worst amongst us thought
experiment. I bet he thought he was being profound. The story
degenerates into a shoot em up dark comedy of religious nonsense,
government conspiracy, comic book logic stupidity. I hope Kevin Smith
stops making movies if this is the best effort he can come up with. He
should be charged with Crimes against Art for forcing these great
actors to push through the mostly nonsensical things he did to this
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
I first read about this movie when it was just called "Kevin Smith
horror project". I was so exited to see Kevin Smith take the step from
stoner comedy to a political, dark movie, as I thought this was. Being
a fan of Clerks, Dogma and Silent Bob himself, I didn't think he could
make a movie I didn't like. I didn't expect to laugh, obviously, but
this movie didn't give me anything at all!
I recently watched the documentary "Small town, Gay bar" from 2007 with Kevin Smith as one of the executive producers. The documentary evolves around the Westboro Baptist church led by Fred Phelps. A fanatic religious cult that don't like gay people very much. Sounds familiar? Well, it would if you had seen "Red State". At one point in the movie a police officer even compares the cult to the WBC and Fred Phelps. The documentary scared me more than this movie did.
The actors did an OK job with a slow script , but I don't predict any Oscars in the future, not for this anyway. Anna Gunn and Matt L. Jones from "Breaking Bad" had small parts and I enjoyed seeing "Badger" as a police officer, that actually did make me laugh :o)
In other words, I wouldn't recommend this movie to anyone. Its not scary, its not shocking and its just not a very good movie. Please go back to making movies about what you know Kevin Smith. We can't all be serious. Comedy is an art itself :o)
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
This movie had potential. It could've easily have been a companion piece to "Hostel", like a religious fundamentalist version. And there are a DOZEN horrible ways that Xtians used to kill people (Brazing Bull, Sawing, witch trial stuff, etc.) But clearly this movie was rushed together and slapped together TOO quickly. It was like Kevin SMith wanted to get this movie out SO quickly that he didn't care about crafting a complete film. The movie is missing a necessary first act, there's no real setup. ANd so when we cut to the 2nd act the tonal change doesn't work. Instead the thriller/murder stuff isn't shocking since we see it coming. And when the FBI/ATF/whatever shows up to kill the church people it's like half of a third act intrudes into the film and never completes itself. The "Rapture" stuff was compelling and even with his nobudget resources Smith should've tried to do this instead of the cop out ending (no pun intended) that he did. It would've made the movie pay off and truly scary since we've never seen a rapture before on screen. But instead we get a half-baked Coen brothers style ripoff of an ending with a pointless monologue by Goodman that's so muddled its a metaphor for this mess of a film. Again, there was a lot of potential here. Maybe someday this film will get remade by someone that cares. My guess is that Smith was so hurt by the critical backlash over "Cop Out" that he was rushing to get back into the game so he could repair his street cred before it was too late (in his mind that is). But it seems like his career went on hold after "Zach and Miri" flopped since Weinstein stopped financing films for him. So "Red State" feels like Smith is trying WAY too hard to win us back with a hard-hitting film that is hard-core for the sake of being hardcore instead of just being a good movie, which it is not. But again, there was some good ideas here. Michael Parks is also EXCELLENT and had the movie been a better vehicle for his performance then I suspect he could've really been remembered in this. His character had cult status written all of it but the film falls apart so quickly that it doesn't sell him they way it should. Even the font used for the titles (ironic as it is in its simplicity) is a turn-off because of how 'simple' it is. It's like Kevin is just tossing this movie out like it's this effortless thing for him yet rather than it coming off as confident it comes off as a form of skimming, like a student who waits the night before a test to study a semester's worth of material. I really wanted to like this film but Kevin's experiment in a film that is edited as he films it goes against the great tradition of filmmaking in a sense-- i.e. if you are going to mimic greats like Tarantino and the Coens who are Kubrickian in their attention to detail and slave over their films, then rushing a movie out contradicts the process they are known for using (they take their time letting their films grow). This is like a fried fast food version of "Fargo" spiced up with Tarantino flourishes/clichés. And like fried food, it's not good for you in the end and doesn't really taste that great the longer you eat it.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
This is an awful movie. I'd rather watch a bad episode of any of the
"Law & Order" TV shows, for example, and I often laugh at them (on the
few occasions that I watch them). RS is unrealistic, unappealing, and
poorly made, but not enough that one can laugh at it. MST 3K would
reject it, I'd guess. Was the director trying to be "ambiguous?" Does
he think this is what makes a film "art?" He has succeeded in making an
unambiguously bad movie. Among other things, there are no characters to
"get behind," and what's worse, none of them come across as
particularly realistic. Nor are the situations realistic. RS makes
Oliver Stone's "JFK" conspiratorial vision look like an establishment
white-wash by comparison!
Forget about offense to "Christian conservatives," because all people should be offended (except for film students who need to learn what not to do and truly deranged people, perhaps). The "religious" people shown in the film are clearly using religion to fulfill sadistic desires, and no religion should be blamed for the actions of a few "nuts." However, what's worse is how the ATF agents are portrayed, which would place them on the same level as Nazi SS guards at death camps if they actually were like this in reality. And of course we get the bungling local sheriff. Why that character's name wasn't Lobo is an interesting question.
Really, the only "message"' one gets in this film is that the director is an incompetent with a bizarre view of social reality. I would welcome a film that shows how a cult is comprised of many different types of personalities, with some of the members really wanting to do good and thinking that they are, for instance. Perhaps we would get some back story about what led them to the cult in the first place. This is where we might see some social reality. For example, perhaps one of them lost a loved one because they lacked health insurance and put off going to a doctor. In this case, the person would fall into the hands of a group of people who are opposed to making sure everyone has good health care, generally-speaking. This would create the irony or ambiguity that the director apparently sought. As it stands, though, it is a sad mess of a film, though if it was designed to offend everyone, it would all make perfect sense.
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