Review: Red State

Taking a break from his yakking slacker comedies, Kevin Smith (Clerks, Chasing Amy) has struck out into bold new territory and made... well, what exactly?

He's described it as a horror film but that doesn't come close. This dark despairing satire genre juggles as wildly as From Dusk to Dawn or Kill List: in very loose terms imagine an episode of The Inbetweeners where they end up trapped in Waco.

Three horny adolescents living in the Bible Belt (the red states that traditionally vote Republican) go off on a road trip but end up in the grasp of ultra extreme fundamentalist preacher, Pastor Evans, a man so fire and brimstone even other right wing nutters want nothing to do with him. Beyond that you don't need to know.

Red State's plot moves like no other film and because of that it can deliver real surprises, real shocks. Its judgements are harsh and random — just like life you never know what anyone has got coming to them.

No doubt it will frustrate as many as it delights and it certainly isn't perfect. Tarantino favourite Michael Park (Kill Bill) is mesmerising as Pastor Evans but even he can't hold your attention for the whole of a 15 minute monologue he gets to deliver.

Gore hounds and sensation seekers may be inclined to check this out based purely on its 18 certificate. If the blood and mayhem of Conan and Final Destination 5 only warrant a 15, what depravities does this contain? Well absolutely none, most of the violence is gunfire.

What is disturbing about the film though is its all-encompassing pessimism.

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This is an America sandwiched between two great banks of zealots: fundamentalists on one side, repressive corrupt government agencies on the other and the filler is gratification chasing idiocy.

It's bleak but brilliant. It was shot on the cheap but looks great, is funny and, if nothing else, finally gives John Goodman a role worthy of his talents. It marks the point when Smith goes from being a bloke who makes film to a real film maker.


Director: Kevin Smith

Starring: Michael Parks, John Goodman, Melissa Leo, Michael Angarano, Kevin Pollak and Stephen Root

Length: 88 mins