Movie Review: Red State

Written and Directed by Kevin Smith
Starring: Michael Parks as Abin Cooper, John Goodman as Joseph Keenan, Stephen Root as Sheriff Wynan,
Melissa Leo as Sara Cooper
Amid a small local media buzz about a group of religious protesters picketing the funeral of a recently murdered homosexual teenager, a trio of teenage boys make plans to meet up with a prostitute they found online for an evening of group sex. On their way to their late night rendezvous in the next town over, the boys get into a minor hit and run. After a round of squabbling, they decide to soldier on to their destination. When they arrive, they find the woman they are to meet for the evening living in a trailer and looking rather not like the woman pictured in the online listing. After imbibing two (drugged) beers a piece at her insistence (she don’t do nothing with nobody less’n they got at least two in ’em) they pass out and come to in captivity. Their captors are none other than the Five Points Trinity Church, the group of religious protesters from the funeral. What’s worse for our intrepid trio is that the woman who was to make them men is herself a member of the church (that’s gotta be a boner killer). Five Points is a sort of weird Christian cult that combines Westboro Baptist Church’s hatred of gays and “fornicators” with the Branch Davidians love of walled off compounds, brainwashing, and automatic assault weapons. Going one step further, however, Five Points likes to abduct homosexuals and “fornicators,” tether them to a cross with Saran Wrap (yes, Saran Wrap) and execute them. Meanwhile, outside of the compound, we find out that the car the boys got in a hit and run with belonged to the local sheriff. The sheriff orders his subordinate to locate the blue station wagon that sideswiped him, leading to a series of complications that gets the ATF involved and kicks off the real meat of the film.
Coming off of the piece of cinematic excrement that was 2010’s “Cop Out,” this film marked Kevin Smith’s first foray into this sort of Tranantino-like neogrindhouse milieu. For the most part, it is a success. There are a couple of, for me at least, pacing issues. For such a short film (it clocks in at around one hour and twenty-eight minutes), there are some places where it seems to drag. The intro feels a little too long and there is a section in the middle that feels like it was extended too much, and seems to detract from the entertaining bloodbath. I guess maybe Smith felt he needed to pad some sections for fear that the small victim list… erm… cast may be killed off too quickly? Maybe he just felt that the movie had to hit a certain length. I would have been happier with about six minutes shaved off to spare some rather repetitious dialog. The acting performances were decent, and the obviously fake southern drawls employed by many of the cast never lapsed into that godawful Robert De Niro in “Cape Fear” territory. This is something that has always been a film killer for me. There is nothing more unpleasant to the ear than an overdone southern drawl (except maybe Chris Cornell “singing”). Michael Parks was particularly good as the Fred Phelps meets David Koresh-like figure that is Abin Cooper. The visual effects were well done, and oozing with cheesy grindhouse goodness. Each injury looked and sounded pretty painful. The work on Kevin Pollak’s head wound was especially deserving of praise as it actually made me cringe. Despite the dark and gritty nature of the film (it does to seem to be an actual, honest attempt at a horror flick to a degree), there is a sort of dark humour underlying much of it. I found myself chuckling more than a couple of times at some of the pseudo-religious diatribes and the way the characters react to certain situations. So repent ye fornicators! Repent and watch this film. And beware of fundamentalists with blue saran wrap.

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