Saturday, December 31, 2011

Candidate # 3

(January 2011)

Given that the last Kevin Smith film I enjoyed without having any major issues with it was Chasing Amy, and still holding out the hope that he could once again win me over, it was with a generous amount of curiosity that I looked forward to checking out Red State, considering that it was also going to be his first “horror movie,” something that appeared to be way out of his comfort zone. (As evidenced below on the final one-sheet, it is billed as “An Unlikely Film From That Kevin Smith.”)
Of course, by the time I finally got around to having the opportunity to see it, the whole “I’ll sell the distribution rights, oh no, let me buy them instead for a negligible fee” auction thing came and went, and it had also just been announced that the film had taken home the Best Motion Picture award at Sitges 2011, where Michael Parks (who plays cult leader Abin Cooper) was also awarded Best Actor.
Well, not having yet seen some of its other Sitges competition, I can’t really say whether I agree with its Best Motion Picture win, but I will say that it’s a very good film, quite possibly the most accomplished one of Smith’s career.*

It’s always been evident that Smith has very strong and pointed opinions about everything from geek culture to religion, a characteristic made even more evident from his appearances outside of his own film work, and while I’ve always been fond of his smaller, more intimate films like his debut feature Clerks and Chasing Amy, in Red State, he delivers a caustic tale of (as the headings under which he divides his cast’s names in the end credits roll indicate) sex, religion, and politics.
The fact that the events of Red State kick off with three horny high school kids just looking for some sex should have put me off this one; I think I’ve mentioned it in these parts before, that I have very little sympathy for film characters who wind up in deep doodoo because of sheer stupidity. Instead, Smith succeeds in drawing me into his film and keeps me there for the duration. Sure these kids are dumb and horny, but what happens to them is simply our way into the story, and it’s a grim, disquieting one.

And not only is Red State the best-looking Smith film I’ve seen (Smith on edits; DP, David Klein, who’s shot most of Smith’s films, including the Reaper pilot), it also sports the best cast Smith has ever assembled, with John Goodman; Kevin Pollak; Oscar, SAG, and Independent Spirit Award winner, Melissa Leo; the Sitges winner, Parks; and Stephen Root. There are also other familiar faces in this like Kevin Alejandro (as with Root, a True Blood alumnus), Buffy alumnus Marc Blucas, and younger, recognizable actors, like Kyle Gallner and Michael Angarano. In a fun bit of casting, Smith also ropes in noted casting director Deborah Aquila (instrumental in casting shows like Dexter and The Shield, and films like The Mist, One Hour Photo, and Sex, Lies, and Videotape) for a small role.

If you think Smith is only about raunchy, potty-mouthed comedy, then give Red State a look. It’s mean and nasty, but it certainly proves that Smith can step away from his comfort zone and deliver the goods.

* I have yet to see both Jersey Girl and Cop Out, so, for all I know, either of these films could whup Red State’s a$$ from here to Timbuktu and back.
Or not.

(Red State OS’ courtesy of and

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