September 12, 2011

Red State (2011)

"Set in Middle America, a group of teens receive an online invitation for sex, though they soon encounter fundamentalists with a much more sinister agenda."

I've watched a lot of Kevin Smith's films in my life, not all of them, but certainly the big names such as "Chasing Amy", "Mallrats", "Clerks", "Clerks II", "Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back" and "Dogma". I've even seen his interview with Stan Lee and his stand-up routine but I would never call myself his greatest fan. Don't get me wrong, I've been thoroughly entertained by Kevin Smith and appreciate his work but I probably won't ever look at him in the same light again after watching "Red State".

"Red State" is so completely different to Kevin Smith's talky comedies that it's hard to believe that it's by him at all. It's not in any way funny, which to me is a good thing, but it's also not the most satisfying film either.

If you don't want spoilers, stop reading now.

Basically, "Red State" is a slightly unhappy fusion of three genres in one. It starts off as some kind of generic "torture porn", turns into an action film with a full-on gun battle between a SWAT team and a fundamentalist cult, then ends up with a load of governmental cover-up bullshit which ruins the whole thing.

It isn't a bad movie by any stretch of the imagination but the subject matter isn't something which would ordinarily interest me. I couldn't care less about inbred religious nutcases, their homophobia or even the weird agenda which the SWAT team (or whatever they were) have for neutralising what their bosses consider to be a terrorist cell. If it's not a real horror film, I'm not going to get any real enjoyment from it, as lamentable as that may be.

The acting is okay, especially John Goodman's performance, and the "Christian" fundamentalists are stereotypically evil enough to enjoy seeing them get splattered everywhere but it's all rather superficial. There's no great character development or even any room for any as it's so quick over the ground that it's hard (but not impossible) to feel anything for anybody.

The kills are satisfying here and there but the fact there's no real emotional payoff overall means that if you are anything like me then you'll feel cheated. What could have been very good just becomes destroyed by one anticlimax after another.

At the point where there is the potential for the film to turn into a very powerful "end of days" story, it turns out to be one of Kevin Smith's stupid jokes which falls even flatter after the mean-spiritedness of the rest of the story.

If I told you that "Red State" was one of the best films that I've seen all year, I'd be lying although up until around 15 minutes from the end it very nearly was.

If this was meant as some kind of social commentary or a political statement about the war on terrorism then the preaching went right over my head. I've been waiting to see Kevin Smith's version of a horror film for years and, unfortunately, I'm still waiting for it.

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