Red State

Red State (2011) movie poster

(2011) director Kevin Smith
viewed: 12/06/2011

I’ve never really cared for Kevin Smith’s movies.  I don’t find quality in the qualities that are generally described of him: namely his comic dialog.  The only one of his films that I thought was any good was Dogma (1999) and after watching Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back (1999), I think I decided that I didn’t need to see any more of his films.  This is nothing to do with him personally.  I just think he makes bad movies.

So you might wonder why I would change this decade-long policy for a movie that has gotten pretty bad reviews.  Actually, after watching it, I had to wonder myself.  In fact, I found myself wondering why I was watching it while I was watching it, which is never a good sign.

The bottom line is that it’s a horror film and I can stand a lot of bad horror films.  And a bit of curiosity as well.

The film focuses on a very anti-homosexual church in a “red state” that takes their nasty hateful beliefs beyond protesting funerals and saying horrible things, but goes so far as to abduct three young men and torture and kill them.   Which would make it a horror film of sorts.  But then, halfway through this politicized story, John Goodman shows up as a good-hearted federal agent and tries as he might to keep the whole thing from “going Waco” (a reference to the 1993 assault on cult leader David Koresh and his followers).  Which is mixing your metaphors, sort of.

What it mixes, or tries to mix, is the focus of who the villains are.  While the leader of the church, a character based roughly on real life hate-monger Fred Phelps, is a classically bigoted hypocrite, some of his followers still strive for goodness, such as the pretty young thing who tries to protect the “young ‘uns”.  And while Goodman’s G-man is trying for a peaceable solution, many of the other agents not only have itchy trigger fingers but total moral blindness.   While this may all be well and good and true, it makes for a very muddy story, a story that doesn’t focus,

Smith has never been a film-maker whose visual aesthetics defined his work.  In that sense, this film doesn’t feel much like his others, with its moments of frantic editing and its image of small town America.  But it’s not a well-made film.  With most of his humor tied behind his back, this movie turns out to be a real drag to watch, even when not expecting a whole lot.

I think I can go another 10 years without watching another of his movies now.  Or longer.

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