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5/10 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 review.4 years ago
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.
Didn't know Smith had it in him
5/10 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.4 years ago
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.
5/10 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.4 years ago
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.
Best Kevin Smith Film to Date!
9/10 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.4 years ago
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.
Can we do better than "Dogma?" Yes, we can.
5/10 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.4 years ago
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.