Running Time: 88 minutes
Starring: John Goodman, Michael Angarano, Nicholas Braun, Ronnie Connell, Stephen Root, Michael Parks
Directed By: Kevin Smith
Rating: 6.5 out of 10
Three teens head into the woods for sex but soon become entangle with a group of religious fanatics that have more than prayer on their agenda.
Religious cults and fanatics pop up in the media from time to time but I don’t know much about them. I usually see the aftermath like a burning building in Waco, Texas, or an empty cup of Kool Aid lying on the ground. Getting to look into the inner workings of one of these groups in this movie is chilling. It is chilling to watch and even more chilling to know that these groups exist. Red State is the story of three teenagers who after meeting a woman from the internet get unwillingly immersed in a group made up of religious zealots.
Red State is an interesting little flick. It deftly incorporates topics such as homophobia, religious cults, government corruption, internet exploitation, and a whole whack of other sensitive topics. It does that without losing the viewers interest or becoming convoluted. This film is labeled a horror and director Kevin Smith calls it a horror but I can tell you this is not a horror. It has the feel of a horror to start out as the three teens head into the dark woods and even get into the obligatory car crash. As it progresses though this film plays out more like an Action/Thriller so don’t expect some typical teens trapped in the woods scenario. The film is a very dialogue driven flick and this will be a make or break for most people. I love Smith’s dialogue so this film I found very intriguing as it went along. Having to listen to a preacher drone on about scripture and sin is not only compelling but a great buildup for what is to unfold.
The acting in this film is solid with a few standouts on the positive side. The teens Travis, Randy, Billy-Ray played by Michael Angarano, Ronnie Connell, and Nicholas Braun have the look and emotional range to lead this film. As they get plunged deeper and deeper into the cult’s world their desperation seems honest. They did a nice job. The first stand out though was preacher Abin Cooper played by Michael Parks. His religious sermon is delivered with intensity and passion. His performance really seals the viewer to this gripping story. He also has an edgy look so he did a great job. Next was ATF agent Joseph Keenan played by John Goodman. Goodman could basically be in every movie he is that awesome (Don’t make the obvious except for the Hunger Games joke please). He takes on every role like a pro and this was no different as a level headed lawman. He was great. The rest of the cast was believable and they certainly looked the part which was good to see.
The church where these cultists work from is secluded and sets the tone of terror and uncertainty of what is about to happen there. I also would be remiss to not point out the great camera work in this movie. Incorporating nice hand held camera shots with some interesting editing makes for some fantastic looking scenes. The film also has a steady rise to it and the fact the story changes lead characters and genre types quite easily makes for a great watch. The films horror start, and dramatic middle, is topped off nicely with an intense if not great gun fight scene towards the end. The films lack of budget is noticeable during these scenes where bullets are flying at will. The quick editing and non crisp scenes of people being shot while not awful could be better. The film’s ending is quirky and concludes this film quite well. A film that splinters genres and has lead characters that might not survive was fun to watch. I was also pleasantly surprised that the characters make rational choices in this movie. When the chaos starts, people take a more of an everyone for themselves mentality which is rare in movies these days.
Director Kevin Smith steps out from his comedic shell (Clerks, Dogma) and shows he is just over all a good movie writer and creator. He takes a cool story where anything and everything happens to the characters and interchanges genres quite easily. His camera work and casting are great and his dialogue is above average to excellent as always. The action scenes are a little lacking but not terrible. I am glad Smith branched out as he has put together a nice little film.
I give this movie a recommendation but be wary as there is a lot of dialogue which will bore some. While I didn't love this film I did find it fresh and interesting so take a look.
T Factor + If you like films that are a little quirky than this could score higher on the rating scale.
T Factor – If you like more action and little dialogue then this could score lower on the rating scale.
If you liked this film reel recommendations: Law Abiding Citizen, Way of the Gun.