Anyone who reads this blog might be aware that I’m a fan of Kevin Smith. I don’t think he’s amazing, but he is interesting and I love keeping track of what he does. I’ve been hearing about Red State for ages, mostly through his podcasts, and I finally got the chance to watch it. For anyone unaware of Red State, Smith decided to handle the release himself. It technically debuted already, but hasn’t had an actual theatrical release. He’s been taking it around the country and playing it on various theaters and giving Q and A’s afterwards. This past week it was released On Demand for people to rent and in October you can own the DVD or Blu-Ray. I chose to “rent” it since I’ve been dying to see it. I almost went and saw it when he toured nearby, but I missed it. Now I kinda wish I had gone.
Red State draws parallels to the Phelps family. There is even a reference to them in the film. Goodman compares the Phelps to the Cooper’s (Smith’s creation) and the Phelps are essentially just supposed to be nuts that aren’t a real threat like the Cooper’s. That alone gives you a much better idea of the film than thinking it is a spoof of sorts of the Phelps family.
The movie is also slated as a horror film, partially because Smith keeps calling it that. It isn’t a horror film. People call Silence of the Lambs a horror film and I still think of that as a thriller. Anyways, Red State is more of a dram/thriller. Something odd in there. In a lot of ways it is vaguely similar to something the Cohen Brothers might make. The humor isn’t the same though and yes Smith’s sense of humor is sprinkled throughout the film. Actually as dark as the movie gets, the last line of the movie is a nice laugh. A lot of the humor is just kind of randomly thrown in the middle of some bizarre moments and I enjoyed it, though it was a bit weird.
That’s the thing about the movie. It’s hard to describe it. I really enjoyed it, but it does have it’s problems. I feel like you have fans of Smith who don’t want to bash it and then some critics who are just itching to slam it. Both groups need to talk things out, because the movie is good, it’s just not what most people expect at all.
The cast is amazing. I can’t think of a performance that wasn’t good. Michael Parks was brilliant and deserves all the praise he is getting. People keep saying he’s Oscar worthy. I don’t know. He’s creepily good, but I can never tell what is considered an Oscar worthy performance. I though the three boys, Kyle Gallner (Jarod), Nicholas Braun (Billy-Ray), and Michael Angarano (Travis) were all great. Unfortunately they only exist for the first fourth of the film really. They are basically just a tool to introduce the Cooper’s. The rest of the cast is great, but no one really gets much screen time. Parks pretty much dominates the film and once Goodman enters he kinda battles Parks for time.
The film was well shot in my opinion. It looked great for the most part. I hated one sequence though. It’s Abin Cooper’s first big sermon that he gives. It’s long and a lot goes on to interrupt it (plenty of spoilers in that). Unfortunately the camera moves constantly. It looked like it was hand-held actually and there are constant cuts to every character that is attending “church.” The reaction shots were unnecessary. Parks is a compelling actor here and as lovely as his voice is throughout, I would have been happy to spend just watch him stand and speak most of the time. The lack of time the camera stayed on him for any length of time in that whole sequence just kinda killed the mood to an extent. He’s mesmerizing and the camera takes that away.
Again the movie is kinda odd and there are some little things spread throughout that just seem off. In some sense the movie kinda feels like it doesn’t really flow smoothly. The transitions are kind of rough in places, but it’s far from ruining the film. The content of the movie alone is interesting enough to keep me watching. That is another problem sort of. Smith could have done a lot more with the material he chose. The movie felt like it could have been, for lack of a better word, epic. It didn’t seem that grand though.
Defiantly worth watching. I suppose the rental price may seem a bit high, but it was worth it to me and I’ll probably end up owning the movie at some point.