Thursday, April 12, 2012
Red State (2011) - Review
Red State is a pretty misleading movie. You could dismiss it as a thinly veiled attack at Christian extremists like Westboro Baptist Church (and it is). You could also write it off as a misguided attempt at a political message (which it also sort of is). But that would be doing a disservice to Red State, which under the ham-fisted surface lies a much smarter movie than I expected and that lies more in Kevin Smith's stellar direction than the story itself.
The story isn't anything to write home about; basically three teen guys are looking to hook up so they find a woman online and head to meet up with her, only to find that she was a trap set by the fundamentalists to catch "sinners". Soon the police are called in and a firefight ensues. It's a fairly simple setup, but there are a lot of misdirections that give the film a more interesting quality. For instance, the movie really passes the torch around between main characters, so much so that it's difficult to actually determine who the main protagonist is.
The acting is all pretty good, a little over the top at times, but good considering the content. The teens are annoying at first, but become more sympathetic once captured. The real star here is John Goodman, playing an agent who isn't introduced until halfway through the movie. He delivers a solid and real performance and really grounds the movie amidst all the crazy Biblical speak and overly accented, dare I say, hillbilly folk. It's obvious by watching any of Kevin Smith's movies that this is way out of his wheelhouse, but he pulls it off surprisingly well. Early on in the movie there is a very long scene that basically goes through the extremists' "ritual" and it sort of drags. But once Kevin gets off of his soapbox, he does a fantastic job with some great jarring moments and a particularly clever use of structuring towards the end.
Overall, I can see a lot of people being offended by this, because it certainly does do its best to be offensive. And really, despite a well-delivered speech by John Goodman at the end of the movie, this film doesn't really have a message other than "don't be a psycho". It doesn't say anything new about idiotic fundamentalists like the WBC that hasn't already been said before, but despite that, it's still a mostly well-written and surprisingly tense thriller.