I was excited to hear that Kevin Smith's next movie was going to be a dark one. For years his wit has made me laugh with Clerks, Mallrats, Dogma and the like. Now I was going to see another de of his film making. tting down to watch Red State I wondered if this was going to be another exercise in so called 'torture porn'. We've seen it many times in recent thrillers like Frontieres. Where cruel violence is dished out with graphic malice. But there's something much more to this story than that.
Plot Synops: "Three horny high-school boys come across an online ad from an older woman looking for a gang bang. Boys being boys, they hit the road to satisfy their libidinal urges. But what begins as a fantasy takes a dark turn as they come face-to-face with a terrifying "holy" force with a fatal agenda."
Red State comes across as a bleak look on humanity. Mr. Smith pulls no punches in telling you that his faith in all kinds of different parts of society is lacking. By the middle of the movie it was clear that I wasn't going to like any character in this film for obvious reasons (except maybe John Goodman's character, which I'll come to later).
The first half hour of the movie sets you up for what you already know. A few high school friends (played by Michael Angarano, Nicholas Braun and Kyle Gallner) go on a little road trip in the hopes of getting some sloppy four-way action with a local cougar who has posted a Craig's List kind of sex personal. Once they reach their destination its all too clear that they are a bunch of little flies in a really big spider's web. For some reason they are completely oblivious to the dangerous vibes we get from their host and much to their detriment.
They become hostages of a Westboro Baptist type of clan run by a preacher named Abin Cooper (played excellently by Michael Parks. And its clear after a lengthy sermon that their personal war on nners is coming to a head. Once the wheels of violence is in motion the secluded congregation find themselves at odds with a detachment of the ATF and for lack of a better term, all Hell breaks loose.
I felt like Mr. Smith was preaching to the choir on this one. I have no love for a religious sect that pickets funerals just to get media coverage. I despise how the Patriot Act has allowed American institutions to disrupt the lives of anyone they see fit, discarding all the rules of conduct and call it justice against terrorism. If any of these points hit you personally I expect you will feel a bit of apprehenon through the movie.
Do you feel bad for these teens who have been snagged by these religious wackos? Not really. Do they deserve the punishment that is meant for them? Certainly not. But I feel indifferent nonetheless.
Through the movie you are introduced to a local Sheriff (Stephen Root) who has no redeeming qualities whatsoever. The leader of the ATF force (played by John Goodman, looking a little thinner these days. Good for you John, you look great) is arguably the only character that we can relate to in this story. He has a sense of duty and believes in his cause but also realizes that his superiors are dishing out illegal orders and he has some time coming to terms with the morality of his potion.
Red State came off as a 'what if' tuation. What if we took the Westboro Baptist Church followers, armed them and put them in the middle of the David Koresh: Waco incident. This is precisely the story we have here. The teens looking for a carnal good time become minor plot points and kind of fizzle out of relevance at some point.
Overall, I enjoyed the movie. If for nothing else than to watch Kevin Smith come out of his comfort zone and touch upon a few dark truths that are very real today. His message is clear. Be careful with the internet. Be mindful of hate filled religious nutjobs and don't believe everything the government tells you. Everybody has an agenda and its usually not very wholesome. No matter what de they pertain to be on.
The movie itself is very well put together. Dialogue is clear. Lighting is done well. Weapons fire is loud. You believe you are where the movie puts you. Solid performances by everyone involved. It's clear that Kevin Smith has great talent and not just for comedy. My greatest wish after watching this movie is that he take a horror torch firmly in hand and show us how dark he can really be. Red State is certainly not a horror movie. But in contrast to his earlier comedy work, its a disturbing film.
Red State gets 3.5/5 shades