Red State * 1/2

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Director: Kevin Smith.
Screenplay: Kevin Smith.
Starring: Michael Parks, Melissa Leo, John Goodman, Kevin Pollak, Michael Angarano, Nicholas Braun, Ronnie Connell, Kaylee DeFer, Stephen Root, James Parks, Kyle Gallner, Gary Sievers, Damien Young.

After the critical panning of his Bruce Willis starring “Cop Out“, writer/director Kevin Smith had to prove that he still had something to offer. On this evidence he doesn’t and maybe this film would be better with the title “Cop Out” instead.

Pastor Abin Cooper (Michael Parks) is a fundamentalist preacher who kidnaps and executes “sexual deviants” and three teenage boys find themselves lured to him in search of group sex from a woman on the Internet. Things go a bit too far though, which attracts the attention of veteran ATF agent Joe Kennan (John Goodman) who lays a siege on Cooper’s heavily armed church.

It’s redneck country and Smith doesn’t fuck about. He delves straight into the extreme religious mindset (probably the same religious fanatics who criticised his film “Dogma“) and he chooses to address it in the torture porn fashion. Gone are his eccentric characters, sharp snappy dialogue and obvious ability for comedy. In their place are detestable characters, mundane monologues and brutal violence. All done with shaky handheld camerawork. It’s not smart and it’s not clever. I have to admit it left a very bad taste very quickly and I couldn’t quite work out the point. Was it to prove his naysayers wrong by changing genres? Or was it a personal attack on his critics? Who knows? Who cares? I’m really not into this disasteful type of filmmaking. Yes, it may be an attack on his critics but Smith is far more intelligent than having to resort to this type of material. I’m a longtime admirer of John Goodman, Michael Parks and Melissa Leo but what the fuck? Did anyone think to inform them of the script before they commited themselves to this? Every one of the characters meant absolutely nothing me but I think I was supposed to care. This is raw, visceral, self ejucalatory nonsense. I hate the very small mindset of the people Smith depicts, but that doesn’t mean I want to spend an hour an a half watching that trash, regardless of them getting their heads blown off or not. And to top it all, just when you think it might all make sense, you get a “single note trumpet blast through an iPod” as an explanation for a major plot development? Give me a break! If it sounds ridiculous that’s because it is.

The very last words uttered at the end of this movie are… “Shut the fuck up!”. I wish those had been the words heeded by the director before embarking on this major shit heap.

Mark Walker

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