Today I consider myself a professional movie reviewer because I received an early viewing of Kevin Smith’s newest and second to last movie, Red State. …Okay, to be honest, I viewed it on iTunes in an early showing type thing for $10. But still! Red State stars Michael Parks, Melissa Leo, John Goodman, Kyle Gallner, Kerry Bishe, Michael Angarano, Stephen Root, and Kevin Smith’s wife, Jennifer Schwalbach Smith … and it rocks!
Red State starts off as the tale of 3 high schoolers lookin’ for some sexy time. One of the kids, Jared (Kyle Gallner), finds a site on the interwebs where people can meet up to get laid. The woman he meets on this site says she will take on him and his two friends, Travis (Michael Angarano) and Billy Ray (Nicholas Braun), so the 3 head out for some action. On the way there, Travis accidentally sideswipes a car parked on the road and, when they go to investigate, a man pops up and startles them off. Shortly thereafter, so does the man in his lap (GAY ROADSIDE NOOKIE!). The 3 continue on and arrive at a trailer in the middle of nowhere where they are greeted by the woman, Sarah (Melissa Leo). She accommodates them in her trailer with beers and the boys soon find out they’ve been drugged. Meanwhile, at the police station, the man who was sideswiped earlier turns out to be the local law, Sheriff Wynan (Stephen Root), a closeted homosexual who can apparently oft times be found on the side of the road with men, unbeknownst to his wife. He sends his deputy off to find the car that sideswiped him.
Jared wakes up in a cage, hearing a sermon. He finds himself in the chapel of the Five Points Church, a group of religious nuts modeled after the Westboro Baptist Church. The sermon is being delivered by their version of Fred Phelps, Pastor Abin Cooper (Michael Parks). After his fire and brimstone “God hates fags”-type speech, he unveils a gay man saran wrapped to a cross and they proceed to shoot him in the head, dropping his corpse into a basement where Travis and Billy Ray are being held. They then saran wrap Jared to the same cross. Outside, the deputy arrives at the Five Points Church and sees the car that sideswiped the Sheriff. The Pastor goes out to meet him and send him away. Meanwhile, Billy Ray and Travis start to free themselves using the dead gay corpse’s exposed bone to cut their bindings. Billy Ray leaves Travis to rot, but is soon shot by Ralph Garmin, who is then shot himself. The deputy hears the shots and calls it in, and is then shot himself. The Pastor threatens the Sheriff with photos of his roadside gayness in order to keep him silent. The Sheriff makes a call and it gets to ATF Special Agent Keenan (John Goodman). The rest of the movie is how self righteous, religious gun nuts react to someone trying to serve a search warrant to them. Hint: it doesn’t go well.
I’ve got to say, I’m a huge Kevin Smith fan. I own every movie he’s directed (yes, even CopOut) and I love the greater majority of them. And lately, even more than his movies, I love him for his podcast/internet radio endeavors with Smodcast Internet Radio. And, being an avid listener of Smodcast, I have been beaten over the head with this movie for a very long time now. So when listening to his podcast and I realized I was still in time to catch this movie on iTunes, I could not pass up the opportunity. So, let me say right now, Smith has not let me down. This movie is great. This is Smith’s first attempt to venture out of comedy (though his comedies have varied in comedic genre quite a bit) and into horror. Well, he called it horror if memory serves. I don’t know that I would call it horror. It’s somewhere between horror and action to me. I’d call it suspense. This movie was absolutely riveting from start to finish. As I usually do, I was attempting to play a video game while watching this movie on my computer, but I had to stop because my controller kept turning itself off from inactivity. I couldn’t take my eyes off the thing!
This movie not only plays different from other Smith movies, it looks completely different. A lot of his movies (Clerks excluded, of course) are pretty colorful movies. This movie is dark and gritty, with a lot of the color really toned down, somewhat like what they did in Saving Private Ryan. Also, as Smith himself tends to say, most of his movies don’t involve any movement for the camera. And in a dialogue heavy movie as his usually are, that works fine. This movie is filmed as if by a frantic bystander with a handheld camera and really draws the audience in to feeling like they are there amongst the religious craziness.
The acting continues the awesomeness of this movie. A lot of the movie hangs around Kyle Gallner, and he is great. I spent the entire movie trying to figure out where I’ve seen him, and it apparently was in the new Nightmare on Elm Street, Jennifer’s Body and the Haunting in Connecticut. Good to see he’s finally allowed in a good movie. Another big part of the movie is following Dan Connor … I mean John Goodman, who is also fantastic. He had to be really conflicted about the orders he received in this movie and really did a great job, though I can’t say I expect much less from Goodman. He seemed to have slimmed down a good amount for this movie too. The driving factor of the whole movie has to be Michael Parks; a man most movie goers would recognize but not by name. He was twice in Kill Bill and was pretty memorable in From Dusk Till Dawn too. Oh man is he good in this. He is freaky and charismatic at the same time, the kind of guy that would attract these kind of crazies. And backing him up was recent award winner Melissa Leo who loses her shit after the death of her husband in this movie and may have freaked me out more than Parks.
If there was a complaint to be made of this movie, I’d say I wasn’t the biggest fan of the ending. I don’t want to ruin it because I think you should all see this in whatever method you can, but suffice to say the ending is a little deus ex machina and unsatisfying to me, but nowhere near enough to ruin the movie. Saying more would ruin it, so I shan’t. Go see this movie! I was happy to give my money to this movie in order to support a man that has given me so much enjoyment in his other movies while he takes his movie away from the studio system and brings it straight to the fans where it belongs. And if Kevin Smith hasn’t brought you enjoyment through his movies or podcast, then I’m not sure how we are even friends.
My personal kudos to Kevin Smith for a job well done. I will happily be purchasing this movie when it is released on DVD. In the meantime, if this review goes up while it’s still available on iTunes, I fully recommend you go rent it there or almost anywhere else video on demand can be found (I think it’s on X-box live, Playstation Network, etc.). It was only 10 bucks for me, and let’s face it, that’s how much a movie costs anyway, and iTunes will save you the drive. And Kevin Smith shot his wife in the face for this movie! …Okay he only wrote it in the script, but I saw it happen in the movie! I give this a “I highly doubt God hates fags, but Robert loves Red State” out of Eleventeen.
And, as always, please rate, comment, and/or like this post and others. It may help me get better.