Review by bADVERTISING.
Up until now you’d be forgiven for saying that director Kevin Smith has largely worked within his comfort zone. His own brand of slacker-stoner comedy hasn’t really strayed too far in one direction or another since his classic, shambolic debut, Clerks.
Red State is, however, a different story. While the film is punctuated with Smith-isms (everything from the crudest of jokes to wry observations), it’s a considerably different beast to his previous offerings. Visually, it’s possibly one of his most accomplished films; a slick high-def sheen is layered over the grimy, bloody scenes and Greengrass-esque shaky-cam is used nicely to add a sense of kineticism to the action.
And there’s lots of action. The last act is practically scored with the sound of gunfire, as all hell breaks loose at a place called Cooper’s Dell. The inhabitants of this well armed ranch? The Five Points Trinity Church – a die hard Christian group clearly modelled on the Westboro Baptist Church. Helping put the fuckin’ mental in fundamental is Abin Cooper (Michael Parks), their charismatic and terrifying leader, along with his extended family including daughter Sarah (Melissa Leo) and granddaughter Cheyenne (Kerry Bishé).
When three classy teenage dudes answer an Internet ad to go and screw an older woman (Leo) in her caravan, they figure they’re in for a night of beer and awkward sex. But, before they can even get their pants off they find themselves drugged, caged and placed in front of the congregation, ready to answer for their sins. Unfortunately for them, Cooper’s idea of divine justice is a high-powered revolver.
Parks has to be commended for his portrayal of Abin Cooper. Swaying from sinister, malevolent understatement to fire and brimstone in quick, easy steps, he makes Cooper a truly nasty piece of work. Similar good work is put in later on by the ever-reliable John Goodman, as the ATF agent sent to lay siege to Cooper’s Dell once the situation escalates. His quip to fellow agent Kevin Pollack regarding the cost of the giant crucifix outside the ranch (“You mean in dollars or common sense?”) is razor sharp – written and delivered perfectly.
Once the ATF agents arrive and the bullets start flying though, the film feels like it veers off course. Smith has answered the other critics who accuse Red State of being ‘confused’ by asking ‘how can it be confused if it turned out how I wanted?’ He’s got a point, but that doesn’t mean the film doesn’t feel messy. It seems to swing wildly from high-school comedy to grungy horror to action without care. Smith does well with these elements in isolation, but they don’t quite meld together.
That said, you can’t knock Smith for his ambition or accuse him of not pushing his boundaries. For a director who usually makes films that are undeniably Kevin Smith films, Red State feels completely different. For that, it’s at least worth checking out.
We hope you're enjoying BRWC. You should check us out on our social channels, subscribe to our newsletter, and tell your friends. BRWC is short for battleroyalewithcheese.