Director Kevin Smith burst on to the scene with his indie darling “Clerks”. That film became a cult favorite and one of the biggest indie films of all time. It’s comedy element, fresh dialogue and analysis of the convenience store worker/slacker was revolutionary. Smith quickly became notorious for his sense of humor and dialogue for the everyman.
In the middle of his career Smith mixed his blend of comedy with commentary on religion and the war between heaven and earth told from a normal guy’s perspective with “Dogma”. In the critic’s humble opinion it is still Smith’s second best film to date. (Behind “Chasing Amy”)
Smith then took a turn for the worst post-Dogma where he sold out to Hollywood with “Jay & Silent Bob Strike Back” and the notoriously horrendous “Clerks 2”. “Clerks 2” was awful because Smith’s brand of humor had gone from playful to perverse and twisted. A new Kevin Smith was emerging and it was then that I gave up hope on the man.
Plus the movie was not funny, too long and some say started the fall of Seth Rogen’s live-action career.
Fresh off the success of “Pineapple Express”, Rogen made this movie and the tripe known as “Observe and Report”. (Rogen’s 2011 movie “50/50” could halt his fall, but we’ll see.)
This brings us to Smith’s latest film, “Red State”, which has become notorious for it’s road to getting made because of it’s controversial, dark and shocking subject matter. Fanatical groups are up in arms on how Smith depicts religious zealots in the film.
The movie is basically “Deliverance” and “Hostel” except some unsuspecting young men get captured by a fanatical Christian cult. This cult brutally murders homosexuals and promiscuous people right on their church’s main stage.
Actor Michael Parks plays the congregation’s main leader Rev. Abin Cooper as a charismatic, restrained yet opinionated speaker. If he wasn’t psychotic and shouting such ridiculous mumbo-jumbo, he might be likable. Parks’s performance is amazing!
Oscar winner Melissa Leo shows up as one of the congregation and a devote follower. How she ended up in this movie is beyond me since this is her first movie post Oscar. Don’t get me wrong she fits right in but after seeing her on that Oscar stage it’s kinda hard to take her in this. Leo’s performance deals with a lot of grandstanding and over-the-top grief so its hard to know how much she put into the role. But she does compliment Parks’s preacher really well.
I am a huge fan of John Goodman. He is such an underrated actor in Hollywood. Most people forget his dramatic turn in “The Babe”, “Barton Fink” and “Bringing Out the Dead”. Goodman was also seen this season as the main villain in the TV series, “Damages”. Goodman is strong as the ATF agent in charge who watches his mission self-destruct like the infamous Waco incident. It is interesting to note the role was originally written for Samuel L Jackson.
The movie is a little jarring in the third act and the ending feels force fed. Smith intended on having an actual divine intervention for his original ending but because of the film’s shoestring budget it was nixed. In my humble opinion I am not sure either ending works.
The main question I asked myself while watching this was, which is more horrific the cultists themselves or the questions about the human condition the film poses? Religion is scary business and there are many wackos out there just make sure you pick the right shepherd.
(2.5 out of 5)
So Says the Soothsayer