It’s been five years since Kevin Smith’s last good film (Clerks II). So has it been worth the wait? Kinda.
I’ve been a follower of Smith’s recent foray into podcasts so I heard about Red State a long time ago and have been eagerly anticipating its release ever since I paid money to see the atrociously bad Cop Out. Everyone knows how bad Cop Out was, even Smith and when the best thing about a film is a cameo from Stifler you know you’re in trouble. Red State was funded privately without any big studio backing and taken out on a tour across America before being optioned and released into theatres. So horrible must his experience of big studios and even bigger actors been that he’s done a complete 360 returning to his Clerks roots of a small budget, solid actors and a great yarn.
The yarn he spins us is about a fundamentalist Christian group setup in some backwater American town that believe the destruction of civilisation and morals rests solely with “the gays”. They are determined to make America sit up and smell the brimstone and devise a plan to trick three unsuspecting teens, whose only crime is being horny, into their church for judgement. This is Smith’s first real venture into horror and violence and he’s a dab hand at it, one sequence involving one of the teens attempting to escape is incredibly tense and nerve racking.
We see Melissa Leo turning up in her first film since her Oscar winning role in The Fighter which seems like a brave move as undoubtedly she had her pick of films after the win. Smith provides a solid script though with some very interesting takes on religion, terrorism and the role of government in America today. Some of this is hard to fathom not living stateside epically when it all turns Waco and the excellent John Goodman playing an ATF chief has some dubious orders to carry out. The star of the piece is without question Michael Parks as the unhinged preacher. He eulogises, rant and raves throughout taking you into the palm of his hand with that sparkling smile no great sociopath can be without. Hopefully this will get him some more notice and once he doesn’t have any accidents in a wardrobe he could fulfill what so many had hoped for David Carradine after Kill Bill.
The film does feel a bit slap dash in parts however with some sequences not really flowing into the next and the ending seeming rushed but this is Smith definitely back on terra firma and hopefully his next outing an ice hockey movie called Hit Somebody won’t be his last as he maintains.