RED STATE (Dir. Kevin State, 2011)
Last month, I went to a one night only special showing of Kevin Smith’s new film RED STATE at the Galaxy Cinema in Cary. I was a bit hesitant to go because tickets were $20, which is a bit much for a movie even with the event featuring a live interactive Q & A with Smith via Twitter.
Remembering that in response to the negative critical reaction to his previous film COP OUT, Smith tweeted that critics should have to pay to see his films like everybody else and even held up a sign at this year’s Sundance that said “God hates press screenings,” I decided I should pony up the money to see RED STATE.
I figured that I had seen his last several movies free, and it was payback time. I strongly disliked COP OUT and agree with Roger Ebert’s quip: “Kevin Smith thinks critics should have had to pay to see COP OUT. But Kev, then they would REALLY have hated it,” but dammit I’ll still take the bait.
If I didn’t know Smith had made RED STATE, I never would’ve guessed. It’s refreshingly out of his cheap comedy comfort zone and smack dab into the world of scrappy cheap horror, with Smith taking chances in a way I thought he never would. It starts out like PORKY’S with a few high school kids trying to get laid, and winds up like Waco, with a compound of extreme religious fundamentalists under siege.
Michael Angarano, Kyle Gallner, and Nicholas Braun are the teens who are captured by members of the Five Points Church led by Michael Parks as Pastor Abin Cooper. As the frightened captives squirm – Angarono in a cage, the others in a crawl space beneath the church’s stage – Parks sermonizes at grueling yet enrapturing length with gravely-voiced intensity about the homosexuals being Satan’s instrument on Earth hastening the demise of us as a species, then dismisses the children present: “It’s gonna get grown up in here!”
Realizing that they are going to be murdered by the crazy cult for being immoral fornicators, the frantic trio try everything they can to escape.
The always awesome John Goodman as an agent for the A.T.F. gets called in by a Sheriff played by Stephen Root, who is a closeted homosexual, and a shoot-out bloodbath results.
There are sloppy edits and some jarring set-ups, but this is easily Smith’s best work in ages. In the Q & A afterwards Smith said that he “got tired of making ‘Kevin Smith movies, as much as people were tired of seeing them.” Here he proves that he’s not a hack with a powerfully paced, engagingly plotted film that features some of his best dialogue and, in Parks, actually has a performance worth nominating for an Oscar. Can’t think of another Smith film you could say that about.
It looks like Smith raided the casts of Breaking Bad and Treme for RED STATE as Anna Gunn, Matt L. Jones, Goodman, and Melissa Leo (playing the woman that is used to lure the teens in with an online sex ad) are on hand.
Although I see that a lot of critics aren’t as enthusiastic about it, I really enjoyed RED STATE and think many will take to it too now that’s available on Blu ray, DVD, and Netflix Instant starting today. I’m not sure it was completely worth the 20 bucks I spent to see it, but I can honestly say I didn’t feel ripped off. Now, if I had paid to see COP OUT at any price mind you – that would REALLY be a different story.