I’m a pretty big Kevin Smith fan; I’ve really liked his whole library (though I’ve never seen Jersey Girl). The last movie Kevin Smith directed was a buddy-cop movie called Cop Out, which he didn’t write. I don’t know if you saw it, but it was okay. Red State is Smith’s return to writing and directing, but not really how fans remember the wisecracking auteur.
Red State is supposed to be a horror film, or at the very least a thriller. But for my tastes it was neither. As much as love the previous works of Kevin Smith, there is almost nothing redeeming about his latest venture into film. The movie is quite simply boring. Nothing is really frightening in any way, except maybe the fact that Smith would use this as his comeback into filmmaking. Granted, Red State isn’t supposed to be a horror film in the usual sense—it’s more of a teen slasher (minus most of the teens) meets every day bigotry. But even on that level, the movie fails to deliver.
Red State doesn’t really follow anything, so it’s hard to describe its plot. Abin Cooper, played by Tarantino regular Michael Parks, is a preacher for a local church congregation called The Five Points. His congregation is mostly made up of his extended family and some other cracked out whackos. Five Points is one of those extremely right wing congregations that thinks it’s awesome to protest at the funeral for a local gay teen who was murdered. Some stupid, horribly cosmically coincidental shit happens here and there so that we are smack dab in the middle of an escalatingly violent stand-off between the church and the ATF. Why the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms would be called into this kind of situation is really beyond me (I guess cus the church has illegal guns? But seriously shouldn’t you call someone better than the ATF?).
The movie, as I said, is boring. I can’t really remember one exciting, funny, scary, thrilling, or moderately entertaining portion of this film. It’s almost like Kevin Smith was tired of twitter’s 150 character limit and decided to just make an 88 minute diatribe of a movie instead. And I love Kevin Smith, I really do. I’ve enjoyed most everything he’s written and directed, Clerks II included. I love his ‘stand-up’ and Q&A sessions. But sweet buttery falafel is this a piece of crap movie. It’s long winded (you know Smith wrote this) and preachy from all sides and less than halfway through you just realize you’ve made a mistake by starting to watch it.
The acting in this movie is atrocious, and by some rather good actors at that. Melissa Leo as Cooper’s daughter is overacting every second she’s on screen, a far cry from her two Oscar worthy turns in recent years. John Goodman as the ATF agent called into handle the debacle is just…not in the right movie. I much prefer Goodman in good natured, jolly roles—or at least something better written than this government hack. I can give praise to the stellar Michael Parks as the movie’s would-be antagonist though. Parks does something no one else in this movie seems capable of, and that’s make me believe I’m watching a real person. Parks’s portrayal of Abin Cooper is creepy and reserved, though at times steps a bit off the path. What the character’s real purpose is in this slapdash narrative, though, I have no idea.
Skip this movie at all costs, unless you just want to see how bad it is for yourself, or if you can devise some creative drinking game to play with friends while watching. Otherwise, please save yourself the pain of sitting through this crapfest. It honestly hurts me and makes me sad to have to write such a horribly, negative review of a Kevin Smith movie. I think the man is somewhat of a genius, just not with this kind of material. I really think he needs to reopen the Askewniverse and start penning a sequel to Mallrats or something. Smith is a writer’s writer, and horror just isn’t the writers’ genre. Please, Kevin, if the next movie is going to be your last, as you allege, make us fans proud and give is something we can honestly claim as your last work.
You can see Red State on most Video on Demand services. It will be released on home video on October 18th, 2011.