Saturday, September 3, 2011

Red State (2011)

Red State is a film that I have been highly anticipating ever since it was announced several years ago. Add on the Sundance Film Festival fiasco where Kevin Smith purchased the film himself and took it on a nationwide tour, it made me even for excited for the Video-On-Demand release on September 1st. And to top off that anticipation, I was lucky enough to attend his Comic Con panel where he showed the audience a five minute clip of the film in Blu-ray sound and quality. However once the extremely divisive reviews started to pour in, I started to grow a very skeptical and a brooding feeling inside me that I could be wrong that Kevin Smith trying something new in his style would be interesting.

Three horny high school students (Michael Angarano,Kyle Gallner,and Nicholas Braun) receive an online invitation from a woman who invites them for a group orgy. Unbeknownst to them though, the woman is Sarah Cooper (Melissa Leo), the daughter of the cult Five Points Church Pastor Abin Cooper (Michael Parks), who he and his followers are immense opposers on the subject of homophobia. She spikes the beers she gives the three teens and they're transported to the church to be killed for their "sins." However, the ATF and police arrive at the scene which sparks a deadly shootout between the Five Points priest and his followers. Basically, the first half of the film draws heavily upon the real-life religious extremist group Westboro Baptist Church led by the infamous priest Fred Phelps, and the second half derives mostly off of the famous 1993 Waco,Texas, ATF siege on the Branch Davidian ranch which ended in a deadly shootout killing almost 80.
All the performances aren't strong because almost every character in this film is unlikeable in their own way. The three teenage boys are unlikeable from the very beginning, because they are so one-note in their characterization, therefore leading to the fact there isn't one moment where you're going to  feel bad for what they go through. Some people have been raving that Michael Parks deserves some awards contention for his performance, but I'll be one of those few that say all he does is just play extremely over-the-top, but the script simply doesn't allow him to push into the territory of being scary or fun over-the-top. The only actor I feel that did a halfway decent job was John Goodman as ATF Special Agent Keenan. It was cool to see him dive into a more dramatic territory in his acting which is sometimes a rare occurrence in his career. In addition, his character is about the only likeable one in the film. On the reverse end, though, there is a plephora of great actors in the supporting cast including Kevin Alejandro,Kevin Pollak,Matt L. Jones,Anna Gunn,and Stephen Root who are all completely wasted of their potential, because their characters are either completely unlikeable or heavily underutilized, thus preventing them from fulfilling their complete acting potential.

The real blame of this film,though,is unfortunately placed on writer/director Kevin Smith. His choice of departing from his usual directing style of just keeping the camera still and having his characters let loose on the genius witty dialogue he writes is completely abolished for an overload of poorly explored themes,constant hand-held camera work,and an overload of dialogue that just bores you instead of making you laugh. For instance, the movie presents several themes mostly in the categories of homophobia,extremist cult religions,and a possible satire on the kooks of the Westboro Baptist Church. To be truthful, the people of that church are the people I hate the most in America because I'm part of a military family, and the fact that they picket military funerals creates the biggest "F*ck You!" I have towards anybody in the world. However, Smith seems to not have the slightest clue on how to fully utilize all of these themes in a coherent manner as they jump from one to the next every scene, and never revisits them for the rest of the film. There are scenes of dialogue that should be interesting, but instead several conversations occur where I just wanted a new scene to occur because the lines spoken are boring and tedious. And when the second half rolls around to the big standoff, Smith believes that killing off characters by surprise will be a shocker to the audience, but since all of the characters in this film are either unlikeable or barely do anything rational to the plot in their short screen time, you'll figure out that you simply won't care at all. Finally, his attempts at incorporating humor fall so flat that it does no justice to a film that is already deteriorating at a rapid pace from being anything okay. On a brighter note though, I did dig the grimy setting of the film where almost every shot is very gray and grim in its look.
Red State is one of, if not the biggest catastrophic failure of the year. In the end, this film is all hype and nearly nothing redeeming in its content. In addition towards the end, there is a jump cut where the film suddenly shifts from what could be an exciting confrontation to a boring negotiation scene that feels completely out of place compared to the rest of the film's events. I was sorely disappointed by how much of a trite mess Red State was, and the fact that I'm a devoted Kevin Smith fan made this experience even more painful and unforgivable. Please save your $9.99 and avoid renting this movie On-Demand from anywhere it can be bought, because it is one of the biggest calamities in film this year.

Final Grade: D


  1. Excellent review...I will remember to skip this one. It sure sucks when something you look forward to disappoints you like that...

  2. I havent seen this movie but great review

  3. Great review. I may check this one out, but it's not a priority.