johnlink ranks RED STATE (2011)

Of all the huge 90s indie directors, Kevin Smith has had the most divergent career path. Since he wrapped up his View Askew Universe with JAY & SILENT BOB STRIKE BACK, Smith has had a smattering of interesting and diverse projects, though none have come with the critical success of his first offerings. RED STATE is what would happen if you took the themes of DOGMA and combined them with a Peckinpah film. So… is it good?


I watched RED STATE (2011) on 1.8.16. It was my first viewing of the film.

This is a movie which starts off with three teenagers using an ap to hook up with an older woman in a small southern town. Before they get there, we learn that there is a disliked religious/cult extremist group in the town led by Abin Cooper (Michael Parks). Turns out that the sex offering was a trap to bait potential gay men, and that the cult plans on killing them.

This all plays out rather quickly, and it should have a quick resolution, except that the local Sheriff (the great Stephen Root) has some skeletons in the closet that he would not like out, so he is slow to react.  Soon enough, though, the authorities are called in led by Joseph Keenan (John Goodman). Also present is another agent, played by Kevin Pollak, who has a mind-blowingly short cameo.

What starts as a hostage situation quickly turns into a full scale shoot out. There is a lot of blood, a lot of anger, and a lot of cynicism. If the first act of the film features some refreshingly long scenes, the second and third acts tumble quickly as this morphs into more of an action film. This, in general, is not Kevin Smith making a long dissertation as he did with DOGMA, instead this is Kevin Smith telling a short, quick, and relatively small-scale story. It is also a brutally violent film, one which does not pull any punches at all.

There is plenty of criticism to go around. This is, again, a very cynical movie. The teens are sex-hungry boys who are fairly dumb. The cult is the epitome of everything you would think of in a group of extremist Christian, gun-toting and gay-bashing hate mongers. The government is insanely short-sighted and ruthless. The local authorities are bumbling idiots. Nobody comes across as likable or good. And the one who comes closest doesn’t make it to the end of the movie (I won’t say which one, you can see if we agree).

This is, though, a pretty good movie. I wasn’t sure when the boys ended up in the cult’s church and I really wasn’t sure when it started to turn action-comedy. But the third act of this thing is bold and strong. There is a major – booming – event which happens at the end where we think anything might happen. Literally, for about two minutes, I would not have been surprised by anything at all happening in that sequence. The movie had an opening to go anywhere. Where it chose, was actually pretty awesome.

Kevin Smith may not have the name he had a decade ago. But with RED STATE, he managed to produce a movie as entertaining as it is cynical and as smart as it is negative.




FINAL SCORE: 7.25 out of 10

~ by johnlink00 on January 11, 2016.

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