Thursday, October 20, 2011

Red State on Blu Ray

Red State unfolds in a small town dominated by a fundamentalist preacher, Abin Cooper. It tells the story of three high school boys who, on their way to an internet arranged meeting with a woman, end up crossing paths with Cooper. The encounter sets into motion a series of events that causes all hell to break loose.
Disclaimer: I first saw this film at the State Theater in Ann Arbor, Michigan during the Red State USA Tour, and the first section of this review was written in March right after I saw the film. You'll notice that it ends with me saying no one could review Michael Park's performance after a single viewing. So tonight, with Blu*Ray in hand, I pick up the second viewing, plus get to see all the awesome special features. Here's the DVD, let's all go inside.
To sum it up briefly and what would happen if the Coen Brothers directed a Quentin Tarrantino script? Probably something similar to Red State.
Let's start with the easy part of this review. Visually this is NOT a Kevin Smith film, it's pure cinematical gold when it comes to how it looks, which is a surprise to anyone that has ever seen any other Smith film. Done on a $4 million dollar budget, this looks like it could easily have been a $10-15 film based on production values, they definitely got the bang for their buck.
Casting wise the film hits it's mark with not a single cast member being a letdown in their role, there is no one that I would think to re-cast, my only complaint is with Kevin Pollack, but if I were to elaborate at all it would ruin a major plot point so I can't. Suffice it to say that it's not his fault, it's the character.
Moving on to the film as a whole, it was disjointed at times, but overall a solid B. The only sticking part to me personally was the sermon in the middle of the film, it drug on a bit too long for my liking, but that could have been more the theater I saw it in, the sound system wasn't the greatest, people near me were loud and I had trouble hearing some of what he was saying, making me lose interest in the scene. Still it seemed to drag on, but the pacing and the story for the first act and the third act were phenomenal. I don't think that you can call this a 'horror' film in the traditional sense, though tonally that is the best category I can think of except maybe quasi-reality.
There are some very funny moments, a few scary moments, and a lot of moments that are just simply tough to process as an audience member. Ralph Garmin gave a fucking eerie performance in a non-speaking role as Caleb, his eyes simply gave me chills. John Goodman was scary good as ATF agent Joseph Kennan. Stephen Root basically played the character he had played in True Blood, just as a cop instead of a vampire, his death scene was my favorite death, and quite ironic in the way it happens. Michael Parks was astounding as bat-shit crazy Abin Coopin, it would be criminal for me to attempt to critique him after having only seen the film once.
This film, unlike other Kevin Smith's flick will not enter the cultural zeitgeist. His best films in no particular order, Clerks, Dogma and Chasing Amy all have made deep impacts into pop culture, his 'lesser' films wouldn't even be remembered by most except that he is so willing to openly discuss his failures. Though I don't think he's made a bad movie, just a few not as good as his others.
This is his greatest film, from a film making standpoint, it's visually pleasing, has many action actions and is often hard to tell that he wrote or directed it. That's a good thing though, he's grown up as a film maker, and its sad to say that he's only got one more project, two more flicks in total before he heads off to retirementville or podcast land.
Even as messy as the overall story is, there are elements of this film that are wonderful. The acting is nothing short of mesmerizing; the editing of action sequences is superb and the setting of the Christian compound is frighteningly authentic. Kevin Smith even scores points for ambition. This is a film that he personally financed and is also possibly his first movie with subtext. While the subtext is still more overt than most, it has some insight into the dichotomy between faith in religion vs. faith in government.
Red State is not perfect, but it is fairly original. In a time where everyone relies on shock value, Red State actually has genuinely shocking moments. I don’t see die-hard Christians loving this film, but if you have malleable religious beliefs or at least possess the ability to separate fiction from reality, you may not hate it.

Special Features include:
"The Making of RED STATE" Documentary
• "RED STATE of the Union" SModcasts
• The Sundance Speech with Introduction by Kevin Smith
• A Conversation with Michael Parks with Introduction by Kevin Smith
• Deleted Scenes with Introductions by Kevin Smith
• Trailers with Introduction by Kevin Smith
• Poster Gallery with Introduction by Kevin Smith 


  1. Bonus points for use of the word "zeitgeist". Kevin Smith's one of those directors whose worst film would equal an average in comparison to other people's works.

  2. Personally I agree, but I'm probably jaded as I'm a bit of a fanboy.

    What can I use these bonus points for?

  3. You can trade them in for the BB Gun, the model airplane kit or the stuffed panda

  4. OOH! How many do I need for the panda? For in Panda I trust.

  5. *Hands you the pandas*
    Anyway, back to the topic at hand: Since I have yet to view Red State, I can't attest to how well his efforts out of the View Askewniverse are with this outing but Zack And Miri Make A Porno is easily my fave of his stand-alone pieces.

  6. I really find it hard to judge a lot of his work without pushing it through the fanboy glasses, but I'd have to agree to a point.

  7. Since you're the bigger fanboy than me regarding Smith's work, I'm strictly speaking from a non-bias view here, mostly.

  8. Speaking of fanboyishness.... I finished his batbook the other day, not sure if I told you.

  9. I don't have the trade on that one yet. I meant the one before that.

  10. Ah, my next guess. 50/50 chance and I got it wrong, lol. I think this was the first time I read a story with Onomatopoeia, and I liked him right away.

  11. Well if I'm not mistaken it's only the second arc he had been in, good character though.

  12. Yeah, he appeared in Green Arrow first (I read the GA storyline much later so that's why)