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Review: Red State

Oct. 19, 2011by: Chris Bumbray

PLOT: Three teens (Kyle Gallner, Michael Angarano, Nicolas Braun) looking for sex, are lured to a rendezvous with a mysterious woman (Melissa Leo). The boys are drugged, and brought to the compound of Pastor Abin Cooper (Michael Parks), who runs an ultra-conservative, cult-like Christian fundamentalist sect called “The Five Points Church” which aims to rid the world of homosexuals.

REVIEW: Few films have been as controversial as RED STATE, most of it due not to the film's content, but to the new enfant terrible persona that`s seemingly been adopted by the previously affable director, Kevin Smith.


I went into RED STATE with a conflicting set of expectations. On the one hand, I've been a Kevin Smith fan since high school, and RED STATE promised a much needed step into a new direction after the atrocious COP OUT. On the other, why wasn't Smith screening RED STATE for the press? If he's proud of the film, why wouldn't he want to show it? Was there something wrong with it?

Plenty it turns out...

Now, it must be said that RED STATE is a far superior film to COP OUT, with this obviously being a passion project for Smith. Anytime a writer/director puts as much of himself into a project as Smith obviously did here, the film will always be worth watching. Indeed, RED STATE is worth seeing, but it's also one of the most frustrating films I've seen in ages. Before reading on, I must warm you, I'm going to dip into spoilers here, as I really can discuss the film without giving away a bit of what happens in the second half. I'll try to keep the spoilers light, but beware. If you want to go in entirely fresh, skip the rest of the review.


RED STATE starts off fairly well, with Smith introducing us to a couple of stereotypical, horny, horror movie teens that are generic, but fun. The chemistry between the three teens was great and they made for a believable trio of pals. The only problem here is that the premise, being that the three kids would be so desperate for sex that they'd drive out to some remote trailer for a rendezvous with an anonymous woman they meet on the net, is a bit hard to swallow. Such things have happened I suppose, but only one of the kids seems particularly thick (Nicolas Braun, who we know is dumb because he wears a mullet).

The problems really kick in one we meet the congregation of the Five Points Church, which is a thinly disguised take off on the Westboro Baptist Church (who protested the Park City premiere). The vibe of Pastor Cooper's flock is indeed creepy, and Parks is terrific in the role, but at this point the film really goes off the rails. Cooper's sermon, during which he slaughters a local gay teen, runs something like twenty minutes, with no cutaways, except to the abducted teens. This sequence, which is obviously supposed to be the frightening centerpiece, instead comes off as incredibly self indulgent, and should have been trimmer by a half.

I suppose Smith didn't want to interfere with Parks' performance, which I'll admit is excellent, but really, this whole sequence is too much and the film never recovers. At this point, we cut to John Goodman's ATF agent, who's been investigating the cult and is sent into the church's compound after a tip from a closeted sheriff (Stephen Root) who wants to get rid of the cult before they reveal his secret life. Here, the film totally shifts gears, with it becoming a take-off on Waco, although the tension is ratcheted up to the point were it becomes ludicrous.

Eventually, the film breaks into a massive firefight between the Five Points congregation and the ATF, and for me this was the one part of the film that really worked. The gunfight is easily the most cinematic scene Smith's ever filmed and the sound work here is excellent. Goodman`s also very believable as the conflicted agent, although I didn`t buy the cold-bloodedness of some of the agents he works with, who should have been more conflicted about some of the things they`re force to do. Still, at this point I felt that the film was getting back on track. But then we get yet another twist, leading to a shockingly poor denouement that really bothered me, but of course, one that I won't reveal here.

One thing that needs to be made clear is that RED STATE is NOT a horror film. Sure, there are some horrific things in it, but nothing particularly genre-worthy. If I can to classify this as anything, I'd say it's a bit of a satire, but the tone really varies. As some points it's a comedy, but at others it's dead serious, and this inconsistent tone keeps it from being either a razor sharp satire, or a thought-provoking drama. It aspires to be both, but ends up as neither.

I can't completely dismiss Smith's efforts with RED STATE, as he's obviously trying to stretch himself, but frankly, I don't feel he went far enough. Anytime the film starts to get interesting, Smith backtracks, making it come off as a bit of a half-assed effort. In the Q & A following the film, Smith revealed that a far different ending for the film was intended and if he had gone down that road, this might have really been something. As it stands, RED STATE is a truly mediocre film with flashes of inspiration that make it all the more frustrating to watch.

Source: JoBlo.com

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9:30PM on 09/13/2012

I agree completely with this...

I am so glad that you wrote this review. I seem to be the only person in my circle of movie loving friends who thought that this movie was completely frustrating. I was so excited to see a movie that delved deep into the religion/sexuality concept...but then it completely went to shit and became a movie about VERY inflated gun violence. That is a completely seperate issue that could have been a different movie in itself. It was as if he had two ideas for two films and didn't know how to start
I am so glad that you wrote this review. I seem to be the only person in my circle of movie loving friends who thought that this movie was completely frustrating. I was so excited to see a movie that delved deep into the religion/sexuality concept...but then it completely went to shit and became a movie about VERY inflated gun violence. That is a completely seperate issue that could have been a different movie in itself. It was as if he had two ideas for two films and didn't know how to start one or finish the other. I love Kevin Smith and I do also appreciate that he is trying to expand his work, but this movie could have been so, so much more focused than it was.
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5:39PM on 10/22/2011
I understand your issues, with the tonal shifts and all, but I loved the hell out of this movie. It was very original, interesting, and as you said, was obviously a passion project. But wtf do I know, I think "Dylan Dog" is one of the best films of the year.
I understand your issues, with the tonal shifts and all, but I loved the hell out of this movie. It was very original, interesting, and as you said, was obviously a passion project. But wtf do I know, I think "Dylan Dog" is one of the best films of the year.
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2:07PM on 10/20/2011
Thought this movie was 7/10. Enjoyed the action but this was no horror film. The main problem i had was that the first and second half feel like two different movies. Still enjoyed it though and am down to see John Goodman in anything.
Thought this movie was 7/10. Enjoyed the action but this was no horror film. The main problem i had was that the first and second half feel like two different movies. Still enjoyed it though and am down to see John Goodman in anything.
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11:06PM on 10/19/2011
All the comments say "good review"...but i wouldn't know cuz I dont want to read a spoilery review. I love Bumbray's reviews and am dissapointed he couldnt write this one sans spoilers. :(
All the comments say "good review"...but i wouldn't know cuz I dont want to read a spoilery review. I love Bumbray's reviews and am dissapointed he couldnt write this one sans spoilers. :(
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10:06PM on 10/19/2011

I honestly wanted to enjoy this film.

I honestly wanted to, but it's not very good. I don't know what happened. Originally, Smith's talking about how some people probably won't consider this a horror film, but these people are killing gay people. Who wouldn't see this as a horror title? But beyond the concept, things happened with no emotional connection. I didn't believe these characters, and that's my biggest problem, and I don't know what's going on with Smith. I didn't enjoy Cop Out. I didn't enjoy this. I did like Zack
I honestly wanted to, but it's not very good. I don't know what happened. Originally, Smith's talking about how some people probably won't consider this a horror film, but these people are killing gay people. Who wouldn't see this as a horror title? But beyond the concept, things happened with no emotional connection. I didn't believe these characters, and that's my biggest problem, and I don't know what's going on with Smith. I didn't enjoy Cop Out. I didn't enjoy this. I did like Zack & Miri a lot, but they've seemly lost their Smith tone. I can't hate the guy. I'm excited to see Hit Somebody, but I feel like a beat puppy that keeps coming back, looking for love.
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2:45PM on 10/19/2011
id give it a 7/10 but i agree with all the points you made chris its exactly how i felt while watchin it. Its definitely not a horror film by any means.
id give it a 7/10 but i agree with all the points you made chris its exactly how i felt while watchin it. Its definitely not a horror film by any means.
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1:47PM on 10/19/2011

I thought it was 7/10

I usually dont post much, but I disagree with this review. This movie is worth watching for sure. I dug it alot and Mr. Parks is really polarizeing on screen. Granted some stuff could have been changed (like every other movie) but 5/10 really ??? I tell everyone to check it out and judge for yourself.
I usually dont post much, but I disagree with this review. This movie is worth watching for sure. I dug it alot and Mr. Parks is really polarizeing on screen. Granted some stuff could have been changed (like every other movie) but 5/10 really ??? I tell everyone to check it out and judge for yourself.
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12:54PM on 10/19/2011

A very good review

but you were kinder to this film than I was. In his talk beforehand, Kevin Smith said that he was paying tribute to the Coen brothers and Quentin Tarantino. Unfortunately Red State was more of a rip-off of those two filmmakers (I was seeing Samuel L. Jackson's Pulp Fiction scene while watching Cooper's sermon) and not a very good one at that.
but you were kinder to this film than I was. In his talk beforehand, Kevin Smith said that he was paying tribute to the Coen brothers and Quentin Tarantino. Unfortunately Red State was more of a rip-off of those two filmmakers (I was seeing Samuel L. Jackson's Pulp Fiction scene while watching Cooper's sermon) and not a very good one at that.
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12:44PM on 10/19/2011

I thought it was pretty decent. 7/10

I went in thinking it would be terrible and actually enjoyed it. I liked the dichotomy of The Church Vs. The Government and how neither party was represented above(or any less fucked up) than the other. The sex kids could have been done better, but you needed a catalyst to get both parties involved so I was ok with it. Plus Micheal Park and John Goodman kicked ass. And the dark humor got me. I'd have given it a 7/10. See it, but don't sweat it if you miss the theater experience.
I went in thinking it would be terrible and actually enjoyed it. I liked the dichotomy of The Church Vs. The Government and how neither party was represented above(or any less fucked up) than the other. The sex kids could have been done better, but you needed a catalyst to get both parties involved so I was ok with it. Plus Micheal Park and John Goodman kicked ass. And the dark humor got me. I'd have given it a 7/10. See it, but don't sweat it if you miss the theater experience.
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+9
11:36AM on 10/19/2011
I'll check it out, despite this review and decide for myself. Good review though.

I just commend Smith for doing what he wanted to do instead of pandering to fans like so many sell-out artists do these days. He made the movie HE wanted to make, and I think it says a lot that he went out of his very small box and did something not in his comfort zone; writing and direction wise.

I also like how this thing was self financed, self promoted, SELF MADE. He returned to his roots in this sense,
I'll check it out, despite this review and decide for myself. Good review though.

I just commend Smith for doing what he wanted to do instead of pandering to fans like so many sell-out artists do these days. He made the movie HE wanted to make, and I think it says a lot that he went out of his very small box and did something not in his comfort zone; writing and direction wise.

I also like how this thing was self financed, self promoted, SELF MADE. He returned to his roots in this sense, and whether you like the movie or not, at least it's not some Hollywood backed bull shit. At least it's REAL FILM MAKING, something we don't see a lot of any more.
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6:23AM on 01/25/2011

Goes to show, playing @ Sundance doesn't matter like it used to.

Pretty good review. It's too bad that so many lousy films are now able to play @ Sundance, Toronto, & the Cannes' film festivals now. I know that even 10 years ago, it actually meant something to have your film shown there. Now it seems that that even mediocre films pop up there a lot now. At least it will shut up all the Hardcore Smith ViewAskew-ers' for a while. Mr. Smith needs to go back to writing & directing what he knows. He needs to go back to the small budget pics w/some unknown
Pretty good review. It's too bad that so many lousy films are now able to play @ Sundance, Toronto, & the Cannes' film festivals now. I know that even 10 years ago, it actually meant something to have your film shown there. Now it seems that that even mediocre films pop up there a lot now. At least it will shut up all the Hardcore Smith ViewAskew-ers' for a while. Mr. Smith needs to go back to writing & directing what he knows. He needs to go back to the small budget pics w/some unknown actors & make it funny. I loved his response he gave to all the people who ripped on him doing "Cop Out," but I'm sorry but that had to have been one of the worst films of the decade. It wasn't quite "Gigli" bad, but it's barely a couple notches above it. Plus I imagine the paycheck will allow him to work on some scripts for a few years. I think it's fine if people do that once in while, just as long as that's not all they do. I had no interest in this film & was tired of hearing about it constantly, so I'm glad I won't have to much more especially now that I know it's bad. The good thing is that he can now go back to the editing table & get rid of some of the lame stuff. There is nothing worse than stopping a decent film w/long uninterrupted pauses, especially if they're pointless & screw up the flow of the picture. I can think of a ton of films that would have been better had they edited some of the dialog down. Hell that's what special features are for on DVD. We can always see it that way.
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-24
3:10AM on 01/25/2011
Kevin Smith sucks again!
Kevin Smith sucks again!
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+0
11:23PM on 01/24/2011

Good review

I'll still check it out, as I've read a few other reviews which have been mostly favorable (and one that thought the movie was crap).
I'll still check it out, as I've read a few other reviews which have been mostly favorable (and one that thought the movie was crap).
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10:19PM on 01/24/2011
Just goes to show that the hype surrounding a director's name doesn't mean anything. Seems like an accurate review just judging from the trailer, which seems 'scattered' in and of itself.
Just goes to show that the hype surrounding a director's name doesn't mean anything. Seems like an accurate review just judging from the trailer, which seems 'scattered' in and of itself.
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+10
7:03PM on 01/24/2011
Still gonna check it out and decide for myself. I haven't seen a Kevin Smith film since Porno, but I liked it (much unlike many others), and I can guess that I will like this one as well, despite poor reviews. I don't mind long bits of dialogue, especially when it's well written. And I generally like Smith's dialogue. It is kind of sad that Smith hasn't really made a film of the kind of calibur we used to know him for with films from the View Askew library. However, I applaude him for trying
Still gonna check it out and decide for myself. I haven't seen a Kevin Smith film since Porno, but I liked it (much unlike many others), and I can guess that I will like this one as well, despite poor reviews. I don't mind long bits of dialogue, especially when it's well written. And I generally like Smith's dialogue. It is kind of sad that Smith hasn't really made a film of the kind of calibur we used to know him for with films from the View Askew library. However, I applaude him for trying out new genres or variations of what he's done. Hopefully his next film is one that both Smith loved making and is one that critics like as well.
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+4
6:56PM on 01/24/2011
"Smith revealed that a far different ending for the film was intended and if he had gone down that road, this might have really been something."

huh?
since the studios had no say in it, it why didnt he.

confused.
"Smith revealed that a far different ending for the film was intended and if he had gone down that road, this might have really been something."

huh?
since the studios had no say in it, it why didnt he.

confused.
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7:35PM on 01/24/2011
his original idea for the ending involved the four horsemen of the apocalypse showing up. Hope that helps you understand why he chose to scrap it (a little too much)

I was at this same screening, and I actually enjoyed the film quite a bit
his original idea for the ending involved the four horsemen of the apocalypse showing up. Hope that helps you understand why he chose to scrap it (a little too much)

I was at this same screening, and I actually enjoyed the film quite a bit
-24
6:42PM on 01/24/2011

Not surprised by this review

This thing has crap written all over it.
This thing has crap written all over it.
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6:29PM on 01/24/2011

i love sexual innuendo

"The only problem here is that the premise, being that the three kids would be so desperate for sex that they'd drive out to some remote trailer for a rendezvous with an anonymous woman they meet on the net, is a bit hard to swallow."
"The only problem here is that the premise, being that the three kids would be so desperate for sex that they'd drive out to some remote trailer for a rendezvous with an anonymous woman they meet on the net, is a bit hard to swallow."
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+11
5:58PM on 01/24/2011
First bad review I've seen of the flim, well written though and I'm still very keen to check it out.
First bad review I've seen of the flim, well written though and I'm still very keen to check it out.
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5:52PM on 01/24/2011
I enjoy serious actor John Goodman. I don't get Gallner's appeal, is it because he always looks like he's about to cry? I'll check this out soon enough
I enjoy serious actor John Goodman. I don't get Gallner's appeal, is it because he always looks like he's about to cry? I'll check this out soon enough
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5:48PM on 01/24/2011
Good review. I really hope this turns out to be good for Smith's sake.

The movie does at least sound interesting.
Good review. I really hope this turns out to be good for Smith's sake.

The movie does at least sound interesting.
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5:40PM on 01/24/2011

What did you expect?

Lots of small idea crushed together. The type of shit friends laugh about over bong hits, Smith turns in to full length films.
Lots of small idea crushed together. The type of shit friends laugh about over bong hits, Smith turns in to full length films.
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5:30PM on 01/24/2011

Still washed-up......

I'll check this one out, although it seems Kevin Smith's streak of poor work continues.

Nice review though Mr. Bumbray.
I'll check this one out, although it seems Kevin Smith's streak of poor work continues.

Nice review though Mr. Bumbray.
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