'Red State', a different side of Kevin Smith

Thursday, March 17, 2011
Michael Parks plays sinister minister Abin Cooper in Kevin Smith's "Red State". Smith is taking "Red State" on a preview tour before its official release date on Oct. 19.


Film Critic

"It's gonna get grooown up in here."

That line is uttered by the wickedly devoted preacher Abin Cooper (Michael Parks) in Kevin Smith's latest flick "Red State" and it's the point when all heck breaks loose. Take everything you think you know about Smith and the film and throw it out the window.

Now here's the weird element of the review -- this isn't going to be one. Not a traditional one, I would venture to say. I'll tell you about the film, but not too much. Do you want Christmas morning spoiled? Do you want to know your birthday present beforehand?

That would be the injustice if I threw down a full-blown review here and now. Trust me, this is a film you have to see. It's not a masterpiece by any stretch of the imagination, but it's a film that elicits an emotional response and does it well.

Remember that? Actually going to the movie and feeling something. That's something a lot of flicks today are lacking, but Smith's "Red State" is one that will have you jumping, cringing, laughing, cheering and ready to get back in line and take the ride again.

The tag line for "Red State" says it all. "Three boys go into the woods to find sex. Instead they find God."

The film is based on -- but not a biopic of -- the Westboro Baptist Church. Don't know them? You know the people out picketing funerals and such with signs that would make your Granny blush -- that's them. But instead of exploring ideology of what and why they do what they do, Smith tackled the idea of what they would do if there were no funerals to protest.

What ensues is a film, which is disturbing and thought-provoking, but ultimately a good time. I hope you can see it as I did -- with a soul rattling sound system, because there are a few scenes that will literally rock you.

Another good call on Smith's part is to have the movie essentially devoid of music. We've become so accustomed to powerful soundtracks that tell us, or at least influence, how we feel, but that's not the issue with "Red State".

Smith's secret weapon is Michael Parks. Parks gives an amazing performance as Cooper and when the film is released on Oct. 19, everyone will have a chance to soak it up. The film opens on the on the 17th anniversary of the film which began his career -- "Clerks".

For those who follow the Hollywood machine, most know that Smith is self-distributing his current release. The director has come under fire for the move, with most portraying it as something more than what it is.

What it is, in my opinion, is a director who's been part of an industry in which he has seen grow to absurd proportions. The one element Smith continues to speak about is the practice of dumping millions on top of a film's budget in order to get a favorable position on opening weekend through marketing.

With "Red State," Smith went outside the box, played to the home crowd and is hoping to hit a home run. He's promoting it on his own, he's keeping most everything in house and he and his legion of fans are making sure the movie hits the big screen in October with as much impact as possible.

As Cooper says, "It's gonna get grooown up in here" and Smith has grown almost unrecognizable in his latest film. The camera flies around at a dizzying pace at times and as he has said himself, it doesn't look like a Kevin Smith film.

With his announcement that his next film, "Hit Somebody" will be his last theatrical feature, it's almost cruel of him to throw "Red State" on us. Smith has endeared himself to his fans through his honesty and what we've come to know of him as a filmmaker. With "Red State," he's upped the ante.

I know I haven't said much about the actual film, but a more in-depth review will roll out as the Oct. 19 release date approaches. What I will say is the film is good -- really good. It's not often when you describe a movie days later and actually get goose bumps about certain scenes.

Final Cut: Smith just might be at the head of a new revolution in independent filmmaking or as he's dubbed it "Indie 2.0". Where filmmakers such has himself gave young moviemakers the confidence to make a film, he's now at the head of a movement that will hopefully allow them the chance to also have their creation find a home with a larger audience. Smith's crashing the party and he's inviting everyone to come along.

4 out of 5 Stars

Red State

Starring: Michael Parks, John Goodman, Melissa Leo, Kyle Gallner, Michael Angarano

Director: Kevin Smith

Writer: Kevin Smith