Red State (2011) – Kevin Smith

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When a writer/director takes on a genre that aren’t often associated with, people are going to get antsy, and some people are just going to hate it no matter what. I found myself looking forward to seeing what Kevin Smith did with a different genre, and took a look at his film Red State, currently available on Netflix.

Set in Middle America, a red state, a trio of boys find themselves getting more than they bargained for, when they travel to a nearby town to score with an older women. The back story is set up pretty quick, introducing the Cooper family, a super fundamentalist religious family and group, led by Abin Cooper (the suitably threatening Michael Parks), who seems to be a mirror image for the Westboro Baptist Church.

The boys, Travis (Michael Angarano), Billy-Ray (Nicholas Braun) and Jarod (Kyle Gallner) fall into the honey trap set for them, and find themselves chosen as the next victims of the Cooper family’s hatred.

Things go from bad to worse, when some untimely gunfire draws the attention of local law enforcement, who after some issues of their own with the Cooper family, call in ATF agent Joseph Keenan (John Goodman), who despite best efforts, watches the entire thing go frighteningly, violently, wrong.

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Whether you are a fan of Smith or not, you can see how he has progressed as a filmmaker, the camera moves so much more than his earlier films, and his script resonates with authenticity, both in terms of dialogue and story. It is also controversial, as it takes clear aim at fundamentalist Christians, especially those charming Westboro folk, but it could be any religion, and when you throw in the politics that become involved, this film could well upset a number of viewers.

In this film, I think he tried to do, on every front, what wasn’t expected of him, so there were a few shocking moments, but nothing that strained credulity, more of a… just when you think things can’t get any worse, he ups that factor a touch, and things get increasingly pear-shaped until there doesn’t seem to be anyone in the entire film with any redeeming qualities at all, and they are all guilty of something. Extremism on both sides leaves little room for negotiation, let alone peace, something I think we’re seeing more and more of in today’s society.

For me, it was an entertaining romp, that fosters mistrust of both religion and the government, which, as far as I’m concerned is a good thing, a little healthy skepticism keeps you sharp.

This may end up being my favorite Smith film, and I was a huge Clerks devotee.

What’s your fave? Red State is screening now on Netflix.

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