Directed by: Kevin Smith
Written by: Kevin Smith
Stars: Michael Angarano, Michael Parks, John Goodman
Released: 30 September 2011
Running time: 1h 28min
No spoilers to be found here!
I’ve always liked Kevin Smith and his unique style. His movies were funny, quirky and best of all, had a certain cheap indie vibe that I really dug. It felt like one of your friends made a movie that actually turned out pretty good. Well, it seems like that Kevin Smith is no more, as each film he now makes moves him away from the style that put him on the map. Red State is completely new territory for the director, a disturbing movie with a twisting thriller-esque screenplay. While Kevin Smith should be applauded for the creative effort, the narrative has some major flaws which ultimately makes Red State one of the director’s most jarring movies.
Travis (played by Michael Angarano) lives a typical American suburban life in mid USA. He and his two friends find an invitation for sex online and decide to follow up on it. To their dismay, what they find is not something they expected.
This is definitely one of those movies that you want to know as little as possible about before going in. I read a short summary about it online and thought I knew what I was signing up for, but I was completely wrong. This movie has so many twists and turns it’s astounding. One moment you are pretty sure on how it will play out, and then the movie does a complete turnaround and focuses on something entirely different. I reckon some props should go out to writer and director Kevin Smith for coming with up with this screenplay, as it is unlike anything he has ever done before (hinted amusingly at on the poster). I have never seen anything like it and that was by far my favorite aspect of the movie.
Red State is not a character driven movie, but there are noteworthy performances. Michael Parks plays Abin Cooper, a dominant character introduced later on in the movie. Cooper is around 50-60 years old and Michael Parks hits all the marks for the creepy old leader-type. He is absolutely terrifying, but at the same time very nice towards others and cares for his family. He is one of the things I remember the most from the movie and an overall well executed character. The other character of note is Joseph Keenan, played by John Goodman. He is also introduced later in the movie as a federal police officer. Of course Goodman is fit to play this type of role, he is strict and brass and believable in the role, but also likable and funny. The problem with this is that it’s the role that John Goodman usually plays, so you have probably seen the character before. But it still sticks out as a good thing since he is so good at playing these kind of characters.
I didn’t notice a whole lot about the film making of Red State, at least nothing I care to mention here. There is however one thing that stuck out to me, and that is the reaction-cam/GoPro shots used sparingly throughout. Simply put, when a character does something dramatic, e.g. running for his life, the camera films his face close-up without moving, creating a very intimate and terrifying picture. These shots are only used a few times in the movie, but I really liked them and thought that they added a lot.
You may have noticed that the best characters in the movie appear later on. Then you may be thinking, what about the main characters? Well, the movie does follow this trio of friends, led by mentioned Travis, but they are all rather forgettable. Not that the actors are doing bad job, they act just fine, but there is nothing to really take away from these characters. Firstly, their introduction barely presents them as more than stereotypical teens who get into trouble. And I cannot even differentiate between the three of them, they just blend together into one unoriginal character. As stated earlier though, the movie is not character-driven, and therefor this does not become a huge issue.
But my major gripe with Red State still has to do with the screenplay. While I like that it is so hard to predict with all it’s twists and whatnot, it loses some of its consistency in the process. As with these complete twists in the narrative, a lot of the tone and themes of the movie change as well. This could either be a negative or positive depending on what you like. I appreciated the varied nature of the movie, but I did become distracted by the tonal inconstancy. At first I thought it was going to be some type of horror, but later on it changes into an entirely different movie. I would be okay with this if it were so that these different themes were amply discussed or came together to create a coherent whole. But the movie just skips from one subject to another without any real depth. It makes me think that they only used these twist for shock value and not to actually talk about it’s themes. This, combined with the characters I didn’t really like at all made it really hard for me to care about the movie at all after a certain point. It isn’t even 90 minutes long, but I still got bored of it well before it was over.
I really want to like this movie, as I appreciate creative screenplays. I also really like Kevin Smith and a whole lot of his work has had an impact in my young movie-loving years. I was engrossed by the intriguing story, with all it’s twists and turns. I also really liked some of the performances, it seems like the actors had a good time filming the movie. But other than that, I find myself not really liking a lot of the aspects of the movie. For once, the actual main characters of the movie are not memorable at all and are really nothing special in terms of writing. The movie also features a lot of twists that drastically changes the entire movie. While this may be a positive for some people, I for one did not like that the movie changes so much, but is seemingly uninterested to discuss the actual themes of it’s genre. I appreciate the creative screenplay and the twists are interesting to witness, but when the instant reaction of them wears off you are left with a shallow and tonally inconsistent movie that is very hard to care for.
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