Red State

Posted: October 10, 2011 by davidmrgn in Film
Tags: , , , , , , , ,

In a nutshell: A religion row in film form

Popcorn rating: 2.5/5

For a film about the dangers of extreme Christianity, Kevin Smith’s Red State sure does preach.

The story focuses on the fanaticism of a group of fundamentalists in an encampment in middle America, who view almost everything as sinful – particularly homosexuality and sex before marriage. But they aren’t the only ones getting an on-screen kicking from the bearded auteur. Also in Smith’s firing line is the government and its intolerant and absolute response to an inflammatory situation.

The film centres on three teenagers who arrange a sex encounter with an older woman. Unfortunately, instead of a Mrs Robinson style get-it-on, they find themselves  drugged and held captive as sinners for sacrifice.

The sinners may not be lost, however, with special agents  dispatched – led by an amazingly slim John Goodman – after gunshots are heard.

As the inevitable firefight breaks out, the teenagers desperately try and make their escape, but Smith offers no salvation here, no redemption for characters nor viewers. Characters are killed off too fast for you to make a connection with them, leaving the audience as outsiders in a situation that is already difficult for many to relate to.

It’s a shame because Red State features some great moments, including an ominous church service which sees the seemingly loving preacher Abin Cooper (Michael Parks on fine form) teaching the importance of Christian values, before you see a man tied to a cross.

There’s a real sense of  futility here, but this is not new territory for the New Jersey writer and director. Smith questioned our obsession with faith in a light hearted and humourous way in the 1999 film DogmaRed State examines what happens when that obsession becomes something darker.

The problem is that Red State is almost like an argument about religious beliefs in film form. As a story, it fails at almost at every hurdle with Smith overusing shock value to hammer the point home.

Beyond some of its finer points, Red State shows a director who is struggling to live up to the spirit of the New Jersey slacker films of his youth.

Reviewer: DavidMorgan


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