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2 reviews, 7 user ratings

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Red State
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by Rob Gonsalves

"Another Kevin Smith question in the form of a movie."
4 stars

Someday, Kevin Smith’s "Red State" will form a natural double feature with his 1999 religious farce "Dogma."

The earlier film, shaggy and undisciplined, was Smith’s profanity-laced conversation with himself about his Catholicism; Red State is equally scattershot but has far darker things to say about religion, or at least the ways in which it can be perverted. Smith had long talked up Red State as his “horror movie,” but it really isn’t one, not at first glance; it’s more of an ideological drama in which two parties face off, taking orders from a higher power, or what they believe to be a higher power. Smith doesn’t trust people who claim to know the will of God; he also doesn’t trust people who carry guns for the government. Bill Hicks, if he were still with us, might have raised a beer bottle in tribute to the film.

Red State does begin something like Hostel — a trio of teenagers head out to a trailer in the boonies in search of sex and wind up kidnapped by religious extremists. This clan, known as the Five Points Church, is headed by the hate-spewing pastor Abin Cooper (Michael Parks), who brings his flock to protest at funerals with appallingly homophobic placards. Sound familiar? This aspect of the clan is obviously inspired by Fred Phelps and his wacko brigade, though Phelps’ group is mentioned in the script as being “suers, not doers.” Cooper’s clan are doers, all right: they live on a walled-off compound, fortified with military ordnance. They use the internet to lure and execute sinners. Laboring under a gargantuan monologue delivered to Cooper’s tiny congregation, the always-compelling Michael Parks manages to sell it, and many other small, subtle moments as well. He’s certainly more fun to watch than many actual fundamentalist loudmouths.

When the local police learn there’s a hostage situation at Five Points, and the matter is kicked upstairs to the ATF, Red State takes a hard left into ethical drama. John Goodman takes over the movie as Keenan, an ATF agent painfully aware of the legacy of the Waco siege at the Branch Davidian compound. Smith is aware of it, too. Cooper and the adult members of his cult are murderers, but there are also children there. Keenan’s orders are to kill everyone, leaving no one alive to testify against the government. He wrestles intensely with this, while his men, young and panicky, unload indiscriminately in the direction of whatever’s shooting at them. The firefights are sharply edited (by Smith himself); the sound design is realistic and punishing. People die randomly all over the place. Cooper believes God is telling him to kill sinners. Keenan is told straight-up to kill the killers and innocents alike. Who are the bad guys here?

Red State feels cynical and unresolved, and that’s about right, given the thorny areas Smith is wading into. In the end, it could be defined as a political horror film, of the sort that’s cruelly plausible in real life. Smith conflates Fred Phelps and David Koresh, suggesting a toxic stew of southern-fried religious hatred stirred up by happy triggers on both sides. It’s a flawed, unfocused movie, just as Dogma was, but they both come from the honest place of a filmmaker with something on his mind. That narrative hard left so many people have complained about lifts Red State above the Wicker Man rip-off it might’ve been.

As always, Smith counsels us, “Question authority. Question yourselves, too, while you’re at it.”

link directly to this review at https://www.hollywoodbitchslap.com/review.php?movie=21818&reviewer=416
originally posted: 09/04/11 20:32:43
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OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2011 Sundance Film Festival For more in the 2011 Sundance Film Festival series, click here.
OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2011 Fantasia International Film Festival For more in the Fantasia International Film Festival 2011 series, click here.

User Comments

9/14/13 action movie fan great film sex seeking kids held by religious fanatics-teriffic shoot out group and atf a 5 stars
2/17/12 gc Worth seeing for Park's performance alone.. 4 stars
1/10/12 Flipsider The movie lives on Micheal Park's performance. But it has flaws. 4 stars
10/30/11 mr.mike I know it's a cop-out but this is one you have to judge for yourself. I give it 3.5 stars. 3 stars
10/23/11 matt If you think this polarizes the right, you really ought to consider what it being right is. 5 stars
10/15/11 Monday Morning A sucky, cliche-ridden movie that polarizes right & left without offering any solutions. 1 stars
9/29/11 matt Wow. The more I think about it the more brilliant this movie is. It's a commentary on Waco 4 stars
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  23-Sep-2011 (R)
  DVD: 18-Oct-2011


  DVD: 18-Oct-2011

Directed by
  Kevin Smith

Written by
  Kevin Smith

  Michael Parks
  Michael Angarano
  Kyle Gallner
  John Goodman
  Melissa Leo
  Kerry Bishé

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