Red State Review

Well, I wrote, and had published, a nice little movie review for the college mag. Great to be in print and all, but seeing what I wrote chopped up until it makes no sense was a little upsetting. Ah well, one lives and learns. This is something I should probably get used to. Here’s the original, full and unedited. Director’s Cut, if you will.

Reviewed: Red State (2011) Dir: Kevin Smith

James Keating

Red State is a departure from what we’re used to from Kevin Smith – Equal parts horror, action and teen comedy, never quite settling on one. The plot is suitably thin, a trio of sex-starved teens are abducted by some hillbilly nutcases and realise they’re going to die in order of attractiveness. Smith however, has infused this well-worn plot with some political sideswipes, mostly directed at extreme right-wing religious groups, but also at US government policy. Why not, one asks?

Well, because it makes for a thematically awkward movie jumping between styles at rapid pace. Red State isn’t a bad movie, but feels as if it were made for two different audiences who don’t mix. The shifts in style and sudden, unexpected twists suit those with the attention span of a 6-year old full of cola, but long-winded dialogue seems to speak exclusively to Smith’s personal preference for slow paced comedy. Without the jokes.

After a speedy introduction to our heroes, who are barely given any characterisation, we jump to a nine minute monologue from Michael Parks. It’s almost as if Smith couldn’t quite put together a full-length movie with a tangible plot. Considering his best work, Clerks, was about next to nothing, this comes as some surprise. I assume there should have been a slow-building tension, but with no real reason to care about the character in danger, and nothing in the dialogue to excite, it falls flat.

There are some positives. We might not care for the protagonists, but the members of the ‘Five Point Church’ are wonderfully hateable, if a little one-dimensional. They’re introduced as being similar to the Westboro Baptist Church, famous for celebrating God’s dislike for cigarettes, and the opening foreshadows their true nature well. The WBC even gets a mention, which should raise a giggle for those familiar with them.

The appearance of John Goodman at the halfway point is more than welcome, and we’re starting to get the sense that Smith has hit stride. He even sneaks in a none-too-subtle reference to Clerks. Sadly, things fall apart soon after. What once was comedy, then horror, now becomes action, sanity takes a back seat.

With Smith’s political messages getting out of hand, the inclusion of some scenes which could have been genuinely affecting or interesting just don’t fit. The ending is suitably confused, and comes quite suddenly, shifting the tone yet again. Smith just doesn’t seem sure of himself when he hasn’t written the script. It’s not all bad, just all over the place.

If nothing else, Smith did conduct a brilliant marketing campaign, managing to anger the WBC in the process with a counter protest against their protest of the movie. If you want comedy, that’s probably worth a google over seeing Red State, and if you want religiously themed scares, try Smith’s pal Malcolm Ingram’s documentary ‘Small Town Gay Bar’ – it’s like Red State, but with less guns. And it’s real. Which is more than a bit terrifying.

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