Verdict: 3 / 5
After two decades of delivering controversial films and a period dabbling in meaningless mainstream flicks, writer-director, and all-round funnyman, Kevin Smith puts the gloves back on and steps back in the ring, ready to take the punches. His latest work, Red State, which made it to 8th place on Quentin Tarantino’s official Top 11 of 2011, involves the evils of extremism and mixes his two favourite subjects, religion, and violence. While the film is labeled as a horror film, it could probably be better described as a grindhouse thriller. Honestly, it’s one of the oddest films I’ve seen in ages.
People just do the strangest things when they believe they’re entitled. But they do even stranger things when they just plain believe. – Joseph Keenan
Kevin Smith’s Red State makes no excuses for what it is; a film made to point fingers at fundamentalists. In this case, they take the form of a preacher (Michael Parks) and a federal agent (John Goodman). The lines between good and evil blur ever so often, making it harder to point out the goodies and baddies of the story. There is enough fire in Red State to heat up arguments regarding a number of controversial topics. Remarks on homosexuality, religion, the law and sex are all thrown into the loop to intentionally challenge viewers. While I’m uncertain whether Smith achieves his intended motives, the film proves to be highly entertaining.
Even the Nazis think this guy is nuckin’ futs. – Mrs. Vasquez
Red State is essentially three stories in one. The first starts off with three randy teenagers who respond to a sex ad on the net, venturing out of town to meet up with a middle-aged woman for a sexual encounter. Of course, things don’t turn out as planned. The three youths are drugged and held captive inside a church, where Reverand Abin Cooper is preaching a sermon on sin. Cooper and his congregation, mostly made up of family members and friends, believe that they have been instructed by God to punish the town’s homosexuals and fornicators. While the three boys are fighting for their survival, a group of federal agents (the ATF) led by Special Agent Keenan show up and attempt a rescue. Things soon spiral out of hand, with the body count rising by the minute.
Whatever the real motivations behind Red State might be, the film remains gripping and never ceases to surprise. Just when you feel you have your head wrapped around what the story is about it does a 180 and heads in the opposite direction. The storytelling mechanism used here is completely unique. And while we all won’t agree with Smith’s views on society and hate crimes, we can all agree that it’s remarkably entertaining. The actors embody their characters perfectly, especially Michael Parks and John Goodman, who both deserve far more praise than they are rewarded. The two actors deliver ever line with class and a sincerity that make them incredibly believable.
It would be hard to recommend Red State to anyone. It’s so odd and so in your face, it’s bound to offend. Those who live on Tarantino films will feel right at home here. If anything, this is Kevin Smith’s ode to his favourite filmmaker. It’s not quite as rewarding as a Tarantino production, but it’s certainly well done.