Saturday, September 10, 2011

Review - Red State (2011)

“I fear God. You better believe I fear God.”

Director: Kevin Smith
Starring: Michael Parks, Melissa Leo and John Goodman
Writer: Kevin Smith

I’m a Kevin Smith fan. I enjoy his entire film work on various levels. Yes this also means Jersey Girl and Cop Out. But the man does have his flaws, and his films have never been great works of art. But they are what they are, and they can make me laugh and sometimes they even make me think. However with Red State we have an interesting case where Kevin has really tried to push himself, and make a movie that means more that his previous entries.

First a word on Michael Parks. He plays religious figure head of the Five Points Church, Abin Cooper. Many reviewers no matter their perspective on the film have said what a brilliant performance he gives, and damn it they are right. In this movie we are dealing with a bunch of religious fanatics, whose hatred of homosexuals has led them to finding and killing those they deem to have committed this sin. Abin Cooper could have easily been drawn as a character that we should just hate, but in the hands of Michael Parks he becomes a character who we certainly don’t sympathise with, but still see human traits that make him less of a monster than we would want. His a slick presence that doesn't yell but instead sells his message by being a dad to all. He's quiet most the time and only really starts yelling like a loon when he feels vindicated. It's a powerful performance, and one that I dare say could be Oscar worthy.

As for the other actors they do well enough, but are constantly hamstrung by the characters they are portraying switching mindsets too rapidly and not showing enough consistency. I like John Goodman, he was one of the better actors in this movie, but I never got a good handle on his character thanks to the inconsistencies. It’s a shame as the movie isn’t lacking from talent, it just seems the script has let the actors down and the only part that really shines is Michael Parks because it’s been deliberately put aside to be the show stopper.

On the director side of things, this has to be one of Kevin Smiths most accomplished films. There is a genuine effort to push himself and in doing so he seems to have tapped into talent he never knew he had. Some may want to get angry as it does make his previous films seem lazy, but instead I would want to congratulate a filmmaker being able to better himself. Editing is also interesting with different styles of editing being used for different characters. Rapid fire editing for the scared teens, a flowing style for Michael Parks silver tongued preacher and a steady more stable feel for the government Agents. It’s far from perfect but it’s still a wonderful step in the right direction.

With Kevin pushing himself in an area not many would think he had talent in, it’s funnily enough his writing that lets this movie down. Normally one of Smith’s strong suits, this movie just doesn’t feel complete, and its characters do not act in a consistent manor. Not to mention the overall theme of the movie isn’t that subtle. Yes we get it; belief can make people do crazy things. I will say at least Smith balances the approach by having belief in government and belief in religion held to the same standards. Still no matter how much I find the subject matter, especially in a horror movie context, I can’t help but feel the movie could have been so much better if Smith let someone else give the movie a once over.

Did I like this movie? Yes. Michael Parks performance is worth the admission, and despite the scripting problems, the subject matter did intrigue me. I feel happy for Smith that he’s made such a step forward as a director in this movie. But it saddens me that the script is just not up to scratch with his other movies. If you are a fan of Kevin Smith then I would recommend this movie. However just be prepared to see a heavily flawed movie.

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