Monday, 3 October 2011

Red State

Year:  2011
Director:  Kevin Smith
Screenplay:  Kevin Smith
Starring:  Michael Parks, John Goodman, Michael Angarano, Melissa Leo, Kyle Gallner, Nicholas Braun
Running Time:  88 minutes
Genre:  Horror, action

This film is a real departure from writer/director Kevin Smith who has made his name with foul-mouthed, but ultimately warm hearted, slacker comedies such as Clerks. (1994), Chasing Amy (1997) and Dogma  (1999). 

This film is pretty much a straight out action/horror movie.  Three high school students:  Travis (Angarano), Jared (Gallner) and Billy Ray (Braun) respond to an on-line advert from Sarah (Leo) promising no-strings attached sex.  Travelling to the remote town of Cooper's Dell, the three teens meet Sarah, but find themselves drugged and imprisoned by the fundamentalist Five Points Church headed by the merciless pastor Albin Cooper (Parks), who has moved from picketing the funerals of gay people to killing them, and plans to murder the three teenagers.  Meanwhile a heavily-armed division of the ATF (Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives), headed by Agent Joseph Keenan (Goodman), moves in towards the Five Points Church compound with direct orders to break in to the place and leave no-one alive;  guilty or innocent.

While featuring  a number of funny lines ("Come out and you will not be harmed.  Repeat.  You will not be harmed"  "I think it's the use of the word 'repeat' there that makes this work every time") this is most definitely not a comedy.  Inspired by Fred Phelps and his controversial Westboro Baptist Church, and echoing the infamous seige of the Branch Davidian compund in Waco, Texas in 1993, this is a bleak, hard-edged and violent movie featuring very few sympathetic characters.  Probbaly the most likeable character, and at least one of the few who is not completely self-serving, is Cheyenne (Kerry Bishe) a young church member who tries to persuade the Government men to arrest them rather than just kill them so that the children in the church will have a chance to survive.

One of the consistent criticisms of Kevin Smith is that he is not a good visual director.  Here he proves the critics wrong with some teeth-grindingly intense action scenes.  While it may disappoint some of those looking for a more traditional Kevin Smith comedy, this does deliver one of the most diturbing and brutal action movies of recent years.  Full of suspense and genuinely exciting action and drenched with genuinely disturbing darkness this is probably Kevin Smith's most impressive work since  Chasing Amy.

Kerry Bishe in Red State  

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