Saturday, February 11, 2012

50. RED STATE (2011)

This is not a bad movie, a badly acted movie, nor a badly made movie, but here's the rub. It basically pits one group of wiley but stupid people against other groups of wiley but stupid people -- add copious amounts of gunfire, staggered action cinematography and jagged editing, and you've got yourself the proverbial bag of hammers.

There seems to be an intelligence behind director Kevin Smith's incessant dialogue, because it's righteously indignant in the face of its own story -- three teens (Michael Angarano, Nicholas Braun, Ronnie Connell) respond to an internet sex offer that places them in the clutches of a local band of religious zealots, leading to a violent FBI rescue mission -- but it doesn't know when to stop editorializing, so it's probably more to the point to tag it as common, ordinary, street-staunch smart-assery. (Part of me wanted to applaud at the end, because the last spoken line is "SHUT UP!") Either way, Smith doesn't zip itself long enough to allow his audience to think for itself, or to sympathize with anyone caught in this idealistic crossfire, and when no one onscreen has anything worthwhile to say, the relevant Commandment says leaven thy dialogue with "fuck" generously. There's really no one here to care much about, but Michael Parks is always fun to watch, and he's in Big Bad Wolf mode and given a sermon to read that accounts for a respectable chunk of the picture.

Though I found RED STATE far more irritating than illuminating, I have to credit Smith for having the imagination to write and stage a climactic scene in which we're tempted to imagine that some actual Biblical promises may be imminent. For a couple of minutes, the cast stop talking for the most part and we get to wonder for ourselves where this movie might be headed -- magic realism? CGI? DOGMA 2? Anyway, it's scary fun while it lasts. The cast includes John Goodman and Melissa Leo from HBO's TREME, both fine actors. You also get to see Betty Aberlin (Lady Aberlin from MISTEROGERS' NEIGHBORHOOD) fire a machine gun. And get blown apart by one.

Viewed on Netflix.


  1. Betty Aberlin, was George Romero's first choice to play Barbra in Night of the Living Dead.

  2. Sorry for the superfluous comma. I excised a secondary thought and forgot to bat clean-up.

  3. The thing that blew me away about this movie, as a long time Smith fan, was the direction which I found utterly detached from what we've seen before from him. If I had somehow not known he had directed this film and you had shown me it without any credits, I would not have guessed that he had done it.

    And yes, that moment at the end where you don't know where he was going to go was terrific, but I'm not sure no matter where he went with it would have paid off satisfactorily for everyone.