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Red State (2011): When Will Silent Bob Learn to Shut Up?

Red State (Kevin Smith, 2011)

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Rumor has it the sequel, Blue State, will be a porn film.

So I finally saw Red State, Kevin Smith’s controversial thriller that combines the Fred Phelps cult with the Waco disaster, and I have come to the exact conclusion I expected to: Kevin Smith is as incompetent at making thrillers as he is at making comedies. It’s a terrible, terrible movie, which I was expecting—but I will admit, I wasn’t expecting it to be terrible in the ways in which it is.

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It’s possible Nick Braun’s hairstyle is scarier than the entire wingnut congregation combined.

Plot: a crazy-wingnut religious group in Texas, known worldwide for protesting at the funerals of homosexuals (sound familiar?), entraps three youngsters (Sky High‘s Michael Angarano, The Perks of Being a Wallflower‘s Nicholas Braun, and The Haunting in Connecticut‘s Kyle Gallner) with the promise of wild, uninhibited antics with an older woman. This, plus a coincidental sideswipe-and-run accident involving the sheriff of the podunk town where the church has its headquarters), brings the attention of the law on the church’s compound, and within hours, the sheriff (No Country for Old Men‘s Stephen Root) and a CIA task force headed by Special Agent Joseph Keenan (John Goodman) are parked outside the compound, just waiting for something to happen. And oh, does something happen…

I was going to say “let’s begin with the script”, but in all honesty, every shortcoming this movie has both begins and ends with the script, which is ludicrous. Now, if you follow my reviews at all, you will know that I am not normally the kind of guy that’s going to get on a script for gratuitous anything (come on, I’m the guy trying to make the case that porn films should be reviewed just like everything else!), but the amount of profanity in the first five minutes of this script is about the same as one would get in the entire script of most R-rated films. And, SPOILER ALERT: it never cleans up, nice or otherwise. Come on, folks, there’s a point at which you go beyond “gritty realism” and into the land of “utterly ridiculous.” (There’s a great, great scene in Chris Smith’s American Moviewhere a couple of actors are rehearsing a scene and Mark Borchardt steps in to show them how he thinks it should be done that’s been my benchmark for this sort of thing since 1999. Mark Borchardt could have easily written this script…)

photo credit: The Guardian

“Dammit, John, I ordered SAUSAGE, not pepperoni!”

Now, pile on top of this a number of long, talky, entirely unnecessary scenes that seem to have been added for the sole purpose of bulking this out into feature-length territory. The first scene inside the church itself, where ultra-bad-guy Abin Cooper (Kill Bill‘s Michael Parks) is sermonizing to his flock, goes on at least five minutes longer than it should (and feels like it goes on at least a half-hour more than that). I’m almost willing to cut the movie some slack for its final sequence, which is another completely unnecessary bit (save that it explains the literal deus ex machina in the climax… but the fact that there is a deus ex machina, and that it needs explained afterwards, is a weakness in itself that no filmmaker who has gone beyond Film 101 should be indulging in), because it affords one of the cast’s excellent actors—can’t tell you who, that’s a spoiler—to not only show he still has chops, but that in the hierarchy of really-damned-good actors in this flick, he’s still at the top of the food chain, thankyouverymuch. But all the rest of them should have been left on the cutting-room floor. This is a thriller, Mr. Smith. Worse yet, it was originally billed as a horror film. Thankfully, your marketing department saved your behind on that one before it got released…

There are a lot of people here in front of the camera who are very good at what they do. Unfortunately, they are continually sabotaged while attempting to do their best with it. The result is a paceless, plotless mess that I wish I could say could only have been made by Kevin Smith. Unfortunately… *

About Robert "Goat" Beveridge

Media critic (amateur, semi-pro, and for one brief shining moment in 2000 pro) since 1986. Guy behind noise/powerelectronics band XTerminal (after many small stints in jazz, rock, and metal bands). Known for being tactless but honest.

2 responses »

  1. Pingback: The Resident (2011): Needed to Be an Intern Longer | Popcorn for Breakfast

  2. Pingback: Haywire (2011): The (Imported) Limey | Popcorn for Breakfast

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