Red State Reviews

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Super Reviewer
October 23, 2014
Kevin Smith's shot at a "serious" movie is this infuriating, terribly directed and unfocused mess that only manages to be morally disgusting in its childish, inconsistent political ideas, while also full of implausible situations and long, unnecessary monologues.
Super Reviewer
½ February 2, 2011
So close to how I see Westboro Baptist Church and their craziness!
Super Reviewer
July 24, 2013
Three high school boys go off in search of internet sex and find themselves kidnapped by a heavily armed religious cult. Kevin Smith's first attempt at a "grown up" film, Red State is an offbeat thriller with horror overtones that continually tries and occasionally succeeds at confounding your expectations. It begins as a Porky's style road movie, veers into torture porn territory only to become a siege thriller. Smith's willingness to dispose of key characters on a whim always keeps you guessing, but it also means that you never really connect with any of them and his dialogue is a little too pleased with itself in places, turning into ranting monologues rather than genuine discourse. The plot is also rather too far fetched to be taken seriously as drama and it's not OTT enough to be considered exploitation, but it is off-beat and unusual enough to always entertain thanks to watchable performances from John Goodman and Michael Parks. Despite its faults, this is probably Smith's best effort to date.
Super Reviewer
February 1, 2013
Kevin Smith abandons his comedies for this horror/thriller loosely based on the Westboro baptist church. An extremist religious community kidnap 'sinners' and execute them. That's it for the plot, but things soon get out of hand with the arrival of John Goodman as an ATF agent. There isn't really a focus to the film, with everyone just being unlikable, from the religious maniacs to the government agents. The violence is pretty contained, but it's the performances that are most disturbing. Michael parks and Melissa Leo are fantastic as members of the church, and Goodman is simply fantastic as the conflicted ATF agent. Certainly exciting and tense, and shot in the style of an old skool 80s nasty, Smith perfectly captures the tone. However, as I said, you just don't get teh chance to attach to anyone as every character is expendable.
Super Reviewer
July 25, 2012
Three boys looking for sex encounter a murderous religious cult that is being attacked by the ATF.
I hate to say it, but Kevin Smith is on a losing streak. Getting away from the immature, lower-class characters who characterized his early work and moving to action films like Cop Out has not treated Smith well. And Red State combines action with political undercurrents. I don't disagree with Smith's points - that religious zealotry leads to blindness, that the government doesn't always have everybody's well-being in mind, and that parts of the populace have too many guns and too little common sense. What i found troubling about the film was Smith's concentration on style over substance and his curious inability to construct a viable character arc. It is as though Smith set out to prove wrong everybody who said his direction was stagnant, and every time I found myself attached to a plot line, the character would die or the film would shift focus, never to return. The film truly is uncharacteristically uneven.
I did like Michael Parks's performance who plays the reverend with an odd combination of slyness and earnestness; one can never tell if he believes what he's saying, but he's convincing enough that one might understand why the proper audience might follow him.
Overall, Smith's latest is not a good film, and no matter how accurate his rifle of satire is, without a good story, the film will invariably be off the mark.
Super Reviewer
June 4, 2012
A silly, fun satire on the Westboro Baptist Church. It's unfortunate that Kevin Smith's budget couldn't fund the ending he originally planned. The last 5 minutes are deflating and generic (though not without some value) compared to the rest of the movie.
Super Reviewer
January 30, 2011
Obviously inspired by Rev. Fred Phelps (Topeka, Kansas) and David Koresh (Waco, Texas), Kevin Smith's Red State is an indictment of cults, zealots and law enforcement tactics. Nicely crafted and superbly cast. Highly recommended.
Matthew Roe
Super Reviewer
May 3, 2012
Most of the current college generation is aware of the large filmography of director Kevin Smith, bringing many of us such cult favorites as Mall Rats, Clerks and Dogma. However, the most recent work of Kevin Smith was the independent film Red State. Unlike all of his previous films, Smith created a horror-action film that has a bite of its own that makes what I can consider to be the strongest film of his whole career. Released in 2011, the film played in very select cities and its theatrical run was brief. This is mainly due to the fact that Smith self-distributed the film after √Ęthe film played to a good but not great reaction in its world premiere (at Sundance) and announced to the audience (after auctioning the film to himself for $20) that he would release the film on his own said LA Times reporter John Horn. It is quite true that the critical reaction to the film has been mixed, splitting the reaction amongst critics down the middle, however I believe Red State is a wonderfully executed film.
Shot on RED-ONE Digital cameras, the film is an overblown satirical commentary on the members of the Westboro Baptist Church in Topeka, Kansas. Ironically enough, the Westboro church members are actually mentioned by name in the film as a comparison to the fictional fanatical church members in the film. The movie starts out following a trio of teenage boys searching through local online sex lines, trying to find loose local women. They trek out to the woman's house (a mobile home in the woods) and then, while consuming the woman's alcohol, are drugged and pass out. They awake during a fanatical church sermon by the main antagonist of the film, Abin Cooper (played by Michael Parks), which I now consider to be one of the scariest performances put on screen in recent years. The rest of the film depicts the efforts of these boys to flee the compound and the fervent beliefs of all of the church members referring to homosexuality and its subsequent effects on humanity.
With superb cast members such as John Goodman (The Big Lebowski), Patrick Fischler (Mulholland Drive), Kevin Pollak (The Usual Suspects) and Melissa Leo (The Fighter), and a range of various other talent, the acting in this film is realistic, well blocked and very captivating. These performances are helped along by the brilliant cinematography by David Klein, which creates a taught and anxious setting where audiences are taken to face the horrors that the characters are living through, and we suffer along with them, whether we want to or not. All of these elements (along with superb art design by Susan Bolles ("Scrubs") and Cabot McMullen ("Spin City")) Kevin Smith directs his screenplay extraordinarily well, which contain very length and passionate monologues, and very testing scenes of violence and torture. However, unlike the many works of directors Eli Roth (Hostel) and Darren Lynn Bousman (Saw Franchise), these scenes are not placed to get solely a shock factor, they comment on the dangers of unchecked ideology in the face of fanaticism, similar to the tyrannical ways of Jim Jones hold over the People's Temple.
It is scary, realistic, and wickedly funny when it wants to be, thrilling and complex. Are there elements that could use work? Of course, as any movie would say, but what Red State does well, it does it extremely well. A film that so many have ignored for the past year, it is a movie that can soothe the wants and tastes of many a movie fan.
Super Reviewer
½ November 4, 2011
It was a good honest try, it really was, for Kevin Smith, writer and director of so many slacker comedies from the past decade that reflect heavy dialogue and a knowledge of a people who he himself claims to not be. He delves again into an area he knows nothing about with this sharp commentary on something that has become a focal point to many of these unpredictable horror films coming out as of late. This wasn't ultimately a stretch of the imagination, and I think people give Smith far too much credit for something that has been played out, and so much better, in so many other indie horror films. The reason I see so much potential for Smith in the coming years and maybe reimagining this genre, is because he really does know his dialogue, however crude and eclectic. He makes these characters really pop, well, except for the three boys who seem snatched from all his other films, but since they aren't the focal point of the film I give forgiveness easily. What also sets this film apart is the amazing cast that was assembled for this. We've got John Goodman of all people, who is one of the best supporting, or leading, actors of our time, and remains the one lasting impression I took away from this. He's tortured, but not in a maudlin way, he's a strict G-Men, but doesn't overcompensate. He's just the right level of everything, and he lends the most of himself. Other amazing performances come from the incomparable Melissa Leo as a Christian cult fanatic, Michael Parks as their homicidal leader, Stephen Root as the guilty sheriff, and Kyle Gallner as one of three boys who are captured. No, I don't believe this is a direct middle finger to organized religion, but just a convenient setting for a story about a worshipping bunch of living martyrs who do horrible things to people and believe in them wholeheartedly. It loses it's horror by being tame at many points, including using guns as their weapons of choice. What's so horrific about a piece of machinery that resides in many homes in America? It's not very graphic, or horrible such as the over the top Hostel and the psychological Audition. I would give it a watch nonetheless, in order to appreciate a filmmaker taking a chance.
Super Reviewer
½ August 22, 2011
Ooh. This movie's got problems. I don't think Kevin Smith really gets horror, you know? For example, monsters in horror movies can be armed any number of cruel garden tools or implements with which to visit pain upon the flesh of the unwary. Guns are pretty much the absolute least scary weapons they could wield. Imagine that you've escaped attacks from a werewolf, a bunch of Cenobites and Leslie Vernon, then you're confronted by an armed tactical forces guy who's screaming at you. Comparatively, he just ain't scary. This movie needed more pain and terror - and interesting plot twists - and fewer long-ass Hellfire sermons and protracted gunfights. Smith's distinctive dialogue is second to none, but he really drops the ball when it comes down to coming up with cool ways of freaking out an audience. This movie is a bit of a mess which is a shame, because it could have been way better.
Super Reviewer
½ December 16, 2010
Cast: Michael Parks, John Goodman, Melissa Leo, Kyle Gallner, Michael Angarano, Nicholas Braun, Stephen Root, Kerry Bishť, Kevin Pollak, Marc Blucas, Kevin Alejandro, Anna Gunn

Director: Kevin Smith

Summary: Director Kevin Smith puts a unique spin on the horror genre in this tale of hormonal urges gone awry. Three high school boys answer an online ad from a woman seeking wild sex and soon find themselves in the hands of some dangerous religious zealots.

My Thoughts: "This is an perfect example why people fear church, not God, but church. Religion is strong in this film and so is a harsh look at what the government is capable of. I didn't think you could be so scared of a preacher man, but then I watched Michael Parks as Abin Cooper, quite frightening. I've red comments about people saying it's an anti-christian film. I disagree. I think it's a film based on some people who take their religous beleifs too far. I heard that the Westboro Baptist Church picketed every screening and that Kevin Smith actually gave them tickets to see the film. I think that was brilliant. They have their rights to preach and believe what they will, but doing it at funerals is just wrong. Kevin Smith really has stepped out of his norm with this film, and I'd like to see more. The film is thought-provoking, darkly funny, and as twisted as one gets. The great cast and fantastic acting really brings this indie horror/thriller to life. It's definitely one people are going to either love or hate."
Super Reviewer
November 27, 2011
As the front cover says: "An unlikely film from that Kevin Smith." I enjoyed that Smith branched out, but his edits looked cheap, and some of the dialogue was overdone. Where he got it right, though, was in the monologues he wrote for the leader of the ultra-Christian sect at Cooper's Dell; filtered through the gigantic performance Michael Parks gives, they really bring the insanity and the manipulation to life. With fun small parts by Stephen Root and Kevin Pollak, plus John Goodman as an angry ATF agent, there's a lot going for this film, but the religious zealots are just too two-dimensional to take the film seriously. Lots of good lines and guns going off, but nothing too special going on here.
Super Reviewer
½ November 29, 2010
Kevin Smith's 10th, and second to final film is definitely an interesting one. For a few reasons. For one, it's a genre hopper and unlike anything he's done before. It's also a return to his roots in that it's a true independent film in the sense that it's self promoted, had no ad campaign, and shot over 25 days and had a budget of somewhere around $4 Million.

The film starts off in rather typical Smith fashion with three vulgar horny teens on the prowl trying to arrange group sex with a woman online. When they go to meet up with her, that's when things get nuts. Turns out she a member of a group of psychotic fundamentalist religious extremists a la Fred Phelps and Westboro Baptist Church, and the three teens have been lured into a trap set by the church to demonstrate the act of righteous action. Word gets out about the disappearance of the three and soon the ATF are on the scene and the film shifts again into a full blown showdown reminiscent of notorious incidents at Ruby Ridge and Waco.

So, there you go: sex shenanigans, to a horror type of thing, to an action flick. All in all, it's best to just call this a thriller, given the shifting tone of things. I kinda liked the left turns this makes, similar to From Dusk Till Dawn, though not as fun or strong overall. Also, the film isn't funny. It's not supposed to be. There were maybe a couple of ties I got somewhat tickled, but it was of the gallows variety of humor, and probably not intended, but not in the bad kind of unintentional laughter type of way.

The film has a lot of neat and good things going for it. It's a great concept for a thriller, and, even though religious nuts are an easy target, there's still enough in the well to make for great discourse and discussion. As per usual though, Smith is better with the ideas than with the execution. He does a decent enough job though, even though the end result is still a flawed mixed bag.

I'll start with the bad so I can end strong. Smith's films are talky. This is no secret. This one is too, maybe a little too talky for its own good. The sermon that serves as the centerpiece is great though, that's not where the film is too talky. Where the film struggles the most if with the conclusion. It ends rather abruptly and there's way too much exposition to explain how it concludes, but even then some of the specifics are kidn of neat. It jsut needed to be more tidy and show far more than tell. It's an uneven film, but that's hard to fault too much since genre shifting is involved. Still though, Smith's been doing this long enough to have learned something about filmmaking by now.

Okay, here's where the film works: great concept, great cast, strong performances. Michael Parks is a notable character actor, but this is a real showcase for his talents that will hopefully lead him to more prominent and substantial roles. He's chillingly effective as the hateful church leader Abin Cooper and makes for a compelling antagonist. Melissa Leo is also good, though perhaps a tad overboard as his nutty daughter Sara who lures the boys in and gets the film going. John Goodman is quite strong as the ATF agent in charge of bringing the church down. Even though the diasppearance of the boys is somewhat important, the film points out that the church was already being targeted, and the part with the boys is more of a catalyst. Stephen Root is decent as a local sherrif, Kyle Gallner is fine as one of the three teens, and Kerry Brishe is good as one of the church followers who actually seems sympathetic.

That's another thing. This film boldly decides to have basically no characters that are really all that sympathetic and likeable. Sure, it makes the film harder to relate to, as well as harder to care about the characters, but in a way, it seems more realistic that way, and adds an interesting dimension of moral ambiguity that just further strengthens the film's "interesting" level.

All in all, this is a tough nut to crack. I should probably dock this by a half star, as it doesn't totally come together and work as a coherent whole, but I'll be nice and give it some credit becuase it is an experiment, and sees Smith trying to branch out and do somethign different. Plus, it is very compelling, has osme really good performances, and it's cool seeing the film keep you guessing with the shifts.
Super Reviewer
January 4, 2012
It wasn't without its flaws, but overall, Red State is pretty decent. Worth a look.
Super Reviewer
½ December 29, 2011
Smith should stick to comedy such as it is. His idea of tension is bland, his character development is non-existent and it's so clear he had no idea how to end this film. The acting however is wonderful and I quite enjoyed watching the deranged Parks as well as Leo and Goodman.
Super Reviewer
June 27, 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, John Goodman, and Dermot Mulroney, 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.
Super Reviewer
November 7, 2011
Despite having a lot to say, Kevin Smith has never been fully successful at translating his ideologies onto the screen. While Red State is maybe his best attempt thus far, it still falls short. The long dialogue scenes and random spurts of violence call to mind a less professional Tarantino, though Smith is able to wring some intensity out of the script, largely due to the performances of Goodman, Parks, and Melissa "always insane" Leo.
Super Reviewer
November 4, 2011
If nothing else, Red State is memorable. A trio of horny teenage boys gets baited and captured by an armed to the teeth fanatical cult. The attempted escape of two of them precipitates a Waco on steroids violent showdown between the cult in their compound and ATF agents outside that have botched the situation and are ordered to take drastic measures to clean up their mistake.

As a horror movie, it's pretty decent, but it sort of fizzles out by the finale, and the ending is something you'll either think is clever or not as clever as Kevin Smith thought it was. Red State earned enough goodwill from me during its disturbing first half to carry me through its trigger-happy, tone-shifted latter half and earn it a slightly positive rating. Check it out to sate your curiosity, but don't expect to be blown away.
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