Movie Review: RED STATE
A look at the frightening effects of fundamental religious beliefs, this is an admirable foray into new territory for Kevin Smith. He leaves behind many of the traits that established him as such a popular independent filmmaker with the likes of Clerks and Chasing Amy and substitutes them for a maturity that sees the director artistically come of age.
However, while Kevin Smith may be breaking new ground with Red State, that doesn’t necessarily make it a very good movie. In this story of three boys who, in search of sex, find themselves the hostages of a fundamentalist religious group, he lacks the ability to condense the many ideas he has for the film into one cohesive narrative experience with the plot uncomfortably drifting from horror to action to satire without any real focus. This haphazard handling of the film often makes Kevin Smith’s controversial picture messy and frustrating to watch.
As the narrative chaotically leaps from one thing to another, moreover, so do Kevin Smith’s characterizations as the main protagonist unevenly switches from the three young boys to John Goodman’s FBI agent to a conflicted teenage girl from the compound before, once again, landing on the FBI agent. With no real protagonist in Red State, Kevin Smith never allows us the chance to really get an emotional hold on the carnage that takes place at the fundamentalist compound.
Usually a master of dialogue writing, boasting influences of Quentin Tarantino or a youthful, sexually charged Mike Leigh, it’s a surprise to encounter that Smith is not able to employ some of that talent in Red State either. His exposition of the fundamentalist cult, the Coopers, during an early classroom scene, for example, displays the kind of rushed, improbable dialogue you might find from an amateur film student while moments in the latter half of Red State are preachy to the point of becoming a lecture.
It’s this self-importance that restrains many of the political undertones that Smith displays in his work. Rather than letting the similarities to Westboro Baptist Church and Waco bubble under the surface, the New Jersey bred director is forceful and heavy-handed, packing the film with an overkill of monologues that threaten to turn Red State into a sermon.
A commendably unlikely film from Kevin Smith, but one so structurally, thematically and tonally jumbled that it quickly becomes exasperating.