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Red State

September 2, 2011

Pastor Abin Cooper: Can you take the children out for the lesson, it’s about to get grown up in here.

When you hear the words “new Kevin Smith movie”, it’s guaranteed that it’s going to be something epic. There was virtually no possible senario where I wouldn’t love Red State. Maybe I’m just a die-hard Smith fan (Clerks is my all-time favorite) or maybe I’m just a sucker for an indie flick, but this film just clicked with me, like his other films tend to do. Being a very different genre for Smith, who has usually directed comedies, he seriously impressed me working with this dark, offbeat thriller. We have some pretty fantastic performances from Melissa Leo and John Goodmen, yet they are completely overshadowed by the terrific performance from Michael Parks, who deserves an oscar for this. In a nutshell, Red State is one hell of a film.

Red State centers on a trio of unfortunate teens (Kyle Gallner, Michael Angarano, Nicholas Braun), who embark to Coopers Dell, the infamous home of the Westboro inspired Coopers, where the boys meet a girl for an invitation for sex that they came upon browsing Craig’s List. When they meet a woman in her trailer, they drink a few beers, and faint. They wake up in Coopers church, all tied up. The crazy religious family kidnapped them and want to execute them for their “sins.” This leads to a lot of chanting, chases, and torture. When the police and FBI learn of this, we focus on a manager (John Goodman) and they plan to infiltrate the church and execute everyone inside. The challenge with this lies with the fact that these crazy Coopers are heavily armed with AK-47’s and snipers, but will that be too tough for the FBI?

Now you may think I’m crazy for doing this, but I am adding this to number six of my all time favorites. Why would I do that you may ask? The answer is simple. This film is a perfect example of a work of art that is worth hundreds of viewings. I’ll admit, I had my doubts on this film, especially after having seen Cop Out (which I didn’t totally hate), but Smith outdid himself in creating not only one of the best films of the year, but one of the best films of all time. I suppose that isn’t all-too surprising for me, considering that I have Clerks, Clerks II, Dogma, Chasing Amy, and Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back on my top ten of all time list, but Red State fits right up there as yet another Kevin Smith masterpiece.

Speaking of Smith, he’s one hell of an entertainer. You would have thought that with all of his hilarious podcasts, book writing, and attending various conventions that Smith would not have enough time to make yet another film, but he managed to do so. On a completely separate note, if you were able to catch Smith’s Comic-Con comedy show in Hall H, he told a pretty riotous story about how he presented Red State to the actually Phelps family, and how they picketed him, he picketed back, and they walked out of the film after fifteen minutes (it sounds much funnier when it’s Smith is telling this story).

This is by far Smith’s grittiest film in terms of the way it was shot. I sort of felt as if I was watching a Quentin Tarantino flick during a few parts (that’s a good thing). The coolest shot sequence in the film was easily the stair chase scene. I felt like that part was a serving of Smith, with some Tarantino sauce, mixed with some Rodriguez, with a topping of the Coen Brothers. While not everyone may want the entree, they should at least try the appetizer (okay, now I’m done with the food comparisons).

Throughout the film there is literally no tone or background music, aside from the moments where somebody is listening to the radio. This style was very effective because it makes it such an awkward, real, and gritty feel to it, which is a style that should be used more often (minus The Dark Knight Rises). It also gave us a real Indie feel, which I loved. The last 30 minutes in particular which consists solely of silly gun play, is played out much more suspenseful when lacking a generic tone. This is a very good technique that Smith works perfectly with. Be it the small budget or Smith’s creativity, it works.

You can’t really blame Smith all the way for Cop Out, granted that he only directed it, and didn’t write the script as he did for all of his films leading up to that. This is one of Smith’s best written films in terms of suspense and dialogue. To my surprise, it wasn’t and vulgar as most of his previous ones, but is still frequently foul mouthed, which is always expected from a Smith film. The writing was impressive mostly for the fifteen minute speech by Michael Parks, who was brilliant, but I’ll get into his harrowing performance shortly. Anyway, this is another great Smith script.

Now, on to the performances. These are honestly some of the best acting I’ve ever seen, and I would be smitten if they weren’t at least nominated for an academy award (an Oscar qualifying run was a few weeks back). Particularly the entire Cooper family was so mind blowing and fantastic that I will literally lose my mind if they don’t get every award. Without going into too much detail [yet], I was extremely happy with Michael Parks (From Dusk Till Dawn), Melissa Leo (The Fighter), and John Goodman (The Big Lebowski). They were outstanding and perfectly cast. 

I’ll start off with the obvious: this is Michael Parks best performance. He is absolutely vile, terrifying, yet strangely fantastic in his terrific portrayal of the bastardly Pastor Abin Cooper. If anyone deserves to be nominated, it’s obviously him. Melissa Leo was another favorite of mine here, and was the best next to Parks. After being very impressed with her performance in The Fighter, I expected the greatest of the great, and she was just that. John Goodman was also quite good as a cop, but doesn’t really have much screen time until the big shootout towards the end. The various church people, hostages, and everyone else were top notch.

With a budget like this, you don’t have enough technology to make it look fantastic, but Red State manages to do so even with a small budget. The camera has a type of “gritty” feel to it throughout. Take this for example: in the speech scene where Michael Parks is talking to the fellow members, there is an array of tense, exciting, and surprisingly well executed shots (which look absolutely stunning in HD). I use the term gritty because these are not very fun places to shoot, nor is the situation right, but making it gritty creates a completely stunning look at the scenery and every single reaction shot, gunshot, or any other type of shot.

I have nothing left to say, you just got to see this movie, which is lucky for you because it is currently available on all VOD services, iTunes, and even Youtube. There are so many fantastic performances, particularly from Michael Parks and Melissa Leo, who are destined for nominations. We also have some pretty brilliant writing and directing from Kevin Smith, making it his most impressive film in terms of grittiness and suspense. Be it the director, be it the scenery, or be it the acting, Red State is one hell of a film.

Red State = 5 out of 5 

7 Comments leave one →
  1. September 3, 2011 5:56 pm

    Couldn’t agree more! I saw the film a few months back at the Wiltern in LA and loved it. A friend of mine was lucky enough to work with Kevin and the crew and I’ve been excited about this film since he told me about it. It did not disappoint!!

  2. September 5, 2011 7:28 am

    Thanks for using the time and effort to write something so interesting.

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  3. September 6, 2011 8:25 am

    @Elisa: Happy you liked it!
    @Amanda: Thanks! 🙂

  4. Dante permalink
    September 8, 2011 7:46 pm

    I’ve heard some pretty bad things about this…

  5. September 8, 2011 7:49 pm

    Would that stop you from seeing the film Dante?

  6. September 27, 2011 3:21 am

    “There is only one terminal dignity – love.” ~ Helen Hayes


  1. I Watched Kevin Smith’s Red State « All Day Comics

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