Movie Review
Red State
Red State poster
By Scott Sycamore     Published August 27, 2011
US Release: October 21, 2011

Directed by: Kevin Smith
Starring: John Goodman , Melissa Leo , Stephen Root , Kevin Pollak

R for strong violence/disturbing content, some sexual content including brief nudity, and pervasive language.
Running Time: 88 minutes
While this unusual offering has some rickety qualities, it made for an experience that was visceral on at least some type of midnight level.
You can't say that Kevin Smith isn't putting the concept of a controversial cult film to the test. Now, I consider this genre my territory and think of myself as an objective judge of such love-it-or-hate-it fare. I forked over double the usual price to see this in its pre-theater national tour, and judging just the film on its own merits, I say Red State gets a passing recommendation for fans. While this unusual offering of his has some rickety qualities, it made for an experience that was visceral on at least some type of midnight level worth sitting through. For a hardcore cult film, he did impressively well with the subject.

It's still a Kevin Smith picture by traditional definition. But with this offering, you can point to more of a stamp on his filmmaking craft, which goes beyond the usual immature and sloppy comedic tone of his previous work style. There's humor here but it’s not the main driver of the piece at all. What is more surprising is when Smith busts out gritty montage work which we haven't seen any hint of from him previously. I'm thinking specifically of an intense foot-chase scene near the end of the film featuring the young actor Michael Angarano blasting a machine gun, who previously starred in the underrated and surprisingly decent Sky High.

The acting is all solid. Since Kevin brought the film to Hollywood for a special one-week Academy run that completely sold out, my guess is he's angling for a nomination for Michael Parks in acting. Parks steals the show as he's meant to with a classically ruthless performance as a Satan-worshipping preacher. He's bolstered by the aforementioned Angarano as well as John Goodman, a couple people from the excellent TV show “Breaking Bad,” one guy from the excellent show “True Blood,” and Kevin Pollak, and the guy who fainted when he met the crazy bum with the blue box in Mulholland Drive.

This flick is a little uneven in the editing and one preacher scene in particular goes on for way too long. There are definite lulls in the action which break up the pace. There are moments of thrill and action, but they are often defused by the typical Kevin Smith static-dialogue shots. This is okay though because he's trying for something different and it’s decent enough. No one said that attempting something new would mean being clean and neat. It’s a pretty solid entry into the indie genre at a time of big-budget bloated blockbuster suck fests.
Scott's Grade: B-
Scott's Overall Grading: 417 graded movies
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