‘Red State’ DVD Review

Director: Kevin Smith

Cast: Michael Parks, John Goodman, Melissa Leo

Plot: A group of extremist Christians enter into a violent stand-off with police after their homicidal approach to sinners comes to light.

Review: If there’s one thing that is clear in picking up a rental copy of Red State it’s that Kevin Smith has lost none of his modesty. The tagline for the movie is not about the movie itself but the director reading ‘An Unlikely Film From That Kevin Smith’. Smith seems to have entered into such a world of delusion that he has forgotten how many flops he now has under his amble waist and has convinced himself, if no-one else, that he’s still a relevant voice of dissent in the world of film-making. Well, if it makes him happy…I’d be happier if I could forget Cop Out and Jersey Girl.

Anyway, to the movie itself. There’s no denying a spark of interest when reading about this film prior to watching. Smith’s particular style of pop-culture referencing and snappy dialogue applied to the often stale genre of horror could be an interesting combination, not to mention a horror based loosely on the actions of such groups as the Westero Baptist Church. Sadly anyone looking for a clever commentary on current social trends or even something scary will be left wanting. Smith does nothing to experiment with the genre, simply aping every other horror movie currently doing to rounds. Every camera move, every edit, every character and everything has been lifted from another film-makers style. Mind you…one could argue that Smith abandoning is current style is a positive move on his part since it’s so long in the tooth it runs the risk of tripping on it’s own dentistry. As for the religious commentary, aside from a few symbolic tics the Cooper family are your generic, redneck movie psychos. If Smith was hoping to poke fun at the totally ridiculous Christian extremists who hog the news then portraying them as homicidal in-bred nutjobs isn’t helping anyone’s agenda.

We’re rising the roof, yo!

One of the most glaring errors by the director is the complete and total lack of protagonist in the story. We start of with a trio of completely unlikeable dirtbag teenagers who talk about sharing a middle-aged trailer inhabiting drunken woman between them is something “they’ll regret if they don’t go through with it”. Then we get a slimy sheriff who cheats on his wife with men he picks up of the road. Shortly after that we are introduced the Coopers and their zealous belief system. Then we finally get John Goodman, and ATF agent who is the only character who isn’t totally revolting and we may actually be interested in if he hadn’t been introduced halfway through the film. These various characters come and go at different times leading the viewer with no-one to get behind or any interest in what happens to any of them.

Part of the problem is that Smith seems determined not just to cast the Cooper family and people who are crazy because they love Jesus but that the government agents are corrupt. Because apparently religious extremists can be dangerous and people in authority can be corrupt.

As we flutter back and forth between the many characters that nobody likes we are treated to some completely horrible camera work and scripting. It’s fair to assume that the camera operator was given a caffeine enema before every scene because the camera gets shaken more than a maracas. It is downright nauseating to watch the screen bumping and swirling around, especially during the quote action scenes unquote where the lens is pointed determinately at everything but the characters. The only scene that is actually watchable is Michael Parks’ first big scene giving a sermon. Sadly for the good performance by Parks this scene is so achingly long and dragged out that I can confidently say that not one person has ever managed to get to the end without tuning out. Smith must’ve edited this scene himself as the only logical conclusion is that someone got so stoned they fell asleep while putting it together.

Akira Kurosawa once said that a single frame from one of his films could be hung on the wall as art. Kevin Smith, conversely, is an idiot.

Some of the actors, such as Goodman and Parks, do as well as they can with the material but the script is complete rubbish. 90% of the movie is tedious exposition and the rest is ham-fisted attempts at wit. When one entire scene is dedicated to the following exchange:

Agent #1: How much does a cross that size cost?

Agent #2: Do you mean in dollars or common sense?

Agent #1: Zing!

…then we are dealing with a truly dreadful example of creative writing. The worst, most cringe-worthy scene is reserved for when a woman, previously only scene to a very quiet, pious woman, yells ‘cocksucker’ out the window while firing a machine gun. It is completely out of place and delivered with all the talent of a spoon. Is it any wonder that his wife didn’t use her married name in the credits?

Just when the story couldn’t get any more stupid, after quite a bit of time flapping about a moral issue when the ATF don’t know if they should ignore an order to murder a group of children because that would be good PR for the agency (Smith deftly moronically explains away the lack of media reporting on the siege by pointing out that it only has a local newspaper – because there’s no such thing as a global news company, 24 hour cable channels, the internet or helicopters and reporters are only interested in what happens in their own suburb) we move onto the grand finale. For anyone who gives a shit about this wretched movie, there are spoilers ahead, but all it technically spoils is the most disappointing ending ever committed to film.

Picture this, if you will. Bodies dot the landscape. An occasion of biblical proportions is taking place. The two enemies are literally standing nose to nose with each other challenging each other to make the first move. The camera pans and out…the scene ends. We cut to one of the characters in an office explaining what happened after the edit.

Seriously, nose to nose.

What kind of bone-headed, drug induced, brain-dead idiotic director would do something like that? We are literally at the most climatic moment of the film, the tension is through the roof and for the first time in 90 minutes the viewer is on the edge of their seat waiting to find out what happens next, and the moronic dipshit of a director doesn’t even show it? Why the fuck not? What kind of head injury would a person need to receive before they came up with the notion that the viewer (key word: ‘VIEWer’) would rather have someone explain the ending to them instead of seeing it for themselves? Did he think he was being clever? Did he get bored?

Kevin Smith is rapidly gone from indie wiz-kid to the punchline of a bad joke. If he honestly thinks this is a good way to end a movie he should take what money he has made and retire.

Score: ONE outta TEN

Originally three stars out of pity, but that fucking ending lost them.