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Film review: Red State


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Kevin Smith’s career has been a little hit-and-miss of late, and so, quite rightly, new offering Red State is beginning to turn heads.

Red StateCentred around the Five Points Baptist Church, an extreme fundamentalist Christian church who are killing homosexuals and other sinners/fornicators in God’s name on their compound, Red State is an allegory masquerading as a comedy of errors.

Its overall message is the ultimate futility of trying to impose your ‘morality’ on others.

The whole affair is held together by stand-out performances from Michael Parks as Abin Cooper, the twisted, maniacal preacher on a murder-trip Abin Cooper (based on real life crazy pastor Fred Phelps) and John Goodman as agent in a moral dilemma, Joseph Keenan.

These are stand-outs in cast who collectively put in solid and believable performances.

Seeing Smith dramatically depart from his usual comedic style – the bright colours and pop culture references are replaced by earthy tones and discussion of morality and scripture -  Red State is a daring move from a director who had already found his niche.

This is in no way a mainstream movie, but Smith’s films never really have been with his attempts at satisfying the mass-audience resulting in his worst films (Jersey Girl, Cop Out).

The spoken word is still the driving point, and the dialogue is excellent as usual. But here Smith treads miles of new ground – big action sequences, horror-style tension and shaky hand-held camera shots.

To sell the concept a few obvious jokes and one-liners have been shoe-horned into the subtle dialogue of the script. These seem to fill little role other than being solid trailer-fodder and seem out of place, no matter how funny many of them are.

Despite its intentions Red State is not saying anything particularly ground-breaking but by moving out of his comfort-zone Smith has provided audiences with a genuinely worth-while and thought-provoking piece of art.

A mix of horror, siege movie and a typical Smith comedy – Red State’s major flaw comes in not knowing exactly what it is. This defying genre is another bold and risky move from the director. It may leave many fans confused as to what it is they are viewing.

The transition between styles and ideas is not as smooth as it could be with some of it jolting back and forth, and the abrupt ending sells it all a little short but as a whole Red State largely works.

Calling on and mirroring real events and people this is Smith’s comment on the dangers of right-wing religious groups (or any fanatical, fundamentalist ideas) in the US today. Five Points is based directly on the controversial Westboro Baptist Church (which is even name dropped in the film) whose ‘God Hates Fags’ protests at funerals and extreme views have made headlines worldwide – Red State takes this kind of thinking to its logical, and violent conclusion.

In doing so Smith calls on the Waco siege, religious morality, sexual freedom and the controversial Patriot Act bringing forth a mass of talking points.

The problem is he raises an abundance of questions with no hint of his thoughts, or any solutions. But as a debate starter Red State does the job brilliantly.

As a brave and controversial addition to his cinematic stable Red State can be seen as a return to form for Smith.

If you are after mind-less action or horror fodder give Red State a miss, but for thought-provoking, interesting film making Red State is well worth a look.

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