Red State

Who knew foul-mouthed, king of the slackers Kevin Smith had a movie like Red State in him?  Once known pretty much exclusively for masterful creation of dick and fart jokes Mr. Smith has come out with one of the best thrillers in recent memory.

After the cinematic turd known as Cop Out I was ready to cast Smith aside, and any hopes I had for his next film Red State were pretty much thrown out the window. Then the first trailer came out. It looked gritty and visceral, more Rob Zombie than Kevin Smith, and that creepy voice over by Michael Parks, had me interested, but then thoughts of Bruce Willis telling unfunny jokes during poorly shot and edited car chases danced in my head and I filed my curiosity away.

Well here I sit eating my words.  Red State is an expertly made thriller about religious fanatics think Fred Phelps meets Waco. Three teens are kidnapped after being tricked with the promise of sex. Abin Cooper (Michael Parks) and his flock intend on punishing the three deviants for their wicked thoughts and actions. Soon things escalate and ATF is called to the scene

The story is something that has been seen before, but not in movies very often, this sort of thing happens in the news. Where Smith surprises is in his direction. Usually Smith focuses on the writing and the direction, cinematography, and pacing are left on the back burner. In Red State we have dynamic camera work, and one or two scene that are tenser than anything I’ve seen in years. Never before has Smith had me on the edge of my seat but here I was hold my breath, can’t look away, holy shit what is going to happen, tense for long stretches of the movie.

That isn’t to say that the writing suffers. Red State features some of Smith’s best writing since Dogma (it seems religion gets the best out of him) and it seems he benefits from the almost complete lack of dick and fart jokes.

As far as acting this is really a one-man show for Michael Parks who is allowed long speeches about scripture and “the homosexual” and it’s really enthralling and disturbingly entertaining. John Goodman does well as the ATF agent in charge and Kevin Pollak has a good moment followed by a great moment. The teens are good and Kevin Smith seems to understand how actual modern 18 year olds act and talk.

Perhaps Red State is a fluke, or a momentary rest from his standard output, either way I feel safe in saying that aside from Clerks, Red State will be the one Kevin Smith is remembered for in the long term. Short term it’s a great movie.

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