Stormtrooper Terry

Stormtrooper Terry

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Red State of the Union

I've been a fan of Kevin Smith and his movies since the first time I saw Clerks back in 1998... wait, taking a minute to feel old... okay, I'm over it. Anyway, I've seen all of his movies, usually multiple times, and with one or two exceptions, I've enjoyed them all. The thing is, with Kevin Smith movies, you always know what you're going to get... some slapstick, a whole lot of "dick and fart humor," and some heart underneath it all that'll probably lead to a life lesson. That's why a non-comedy from him, the second* of his career, was something I was dying to see but couldn't during the Red State Tour because of how exorbitant the ticket prices were. Forty bucks for a ticket alone just isn't happening. But when I saw the movie was available On Demand, the wait was over.

The "horror film" tagline is a bit inaccurate as Red State is definitely a thriller more than anything else, but if the purpose of the line is to let you know this isn't the usual Kevin Smith fare, well, it definitely is on the money. Right off the bat, it just feels like it was directed by someone else. There's no alternative background music or sarcastic fanboy witticisms. There are a few instances of fratboy humor as three male students get ready to go meet an older lady for a gangbang they arranged online, but when they get there... well, I don't want to spoil anything because I know the majority of people probably haven't seen it yet, but let's be honest; we all know an internet-arranged gangbang probably doesn't end well, right?

Avoiding spoilers, the way I see it is this: Red State has three good things going for it and three bad things working against it. Starting with the good, it's topical. With those idiots in the WBC as the basis for the church/cult in the flick and other idiot preachers like the jackass who predicted and then re-predicted the end of the world all up in the public consciousness these days, it serves to make the film more engrossing. The relatively low budget ($4 million) works for it as well, giving it a much more real, rural feel most of the time. Lastly, there are a few really good acting performances. Kerry Bishe manages to squeeze some likeability out of her role as Cheyenne, one of the members of the church who just wants to do one good thing. John Goodman is great as Special Agent Keenan, the ATF agent in charge of the attempts to bring the church down.

He wasn't quite as awesome as he was here...

But he was definitely more awesome than he was here.

 The whole movie is stolen, however, by Michael Parks performance as Abin Cooper, the reverend in charge, who comes off naturally as completely batshit crazy but also sort of likable; it's easy to see why people might follow him, especially during what is basically a long soliloquy by him not long into the movie.

As for the negatives... for one thing, the fact that this is so afield from what Smith usually does, and such a big deal was made of that fact, that is was difficult for me at least to keep that thought from coming into my head throughout the movie, which decreased my enjoyment at least. Also, in terms of the characters, they all do fairly unsympathetic things during the course of events, making it hard to root for any of them, except for a three kids mentioned earlier; although the fact that they're stupid enough to fall for an online invitation to gangbang a woman they never met makes me root for their deaths. Lastly, there's a moment where it seems like the ending is going one way but then goes another; if it had gone the way it felt like it was at first, it would have been a much more provocative ending, which might have been a better way to go.

All in all though, I do think Red State is a good movie that is worth watching, and I definitely wouldn't mind if Kevin Smith went out of his comfort zone more often to make more movies like this.

*Okay, technically it's the first non-comedy of his career because Jersey Girl is technically classified as a comedy, but come on, that movie just wasn't funny. At all.

Precocious pain in the ass. Oh, yeah, and the girl stinks too.


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