Thursday, September 1, 2011

Red State (2011)

Red State (2011)
Stars - Michael Parks
          Melissa Leo
          John Goodman
Directed by: Kevin Smith
Summary: Set in Middle America, a group of teens receive an online invitation for sex, though they soon encounter fundamentalists with a much more sinister agenda. (via imdb). 
Wow. That's literally the first thing that popped into my head when the credits started rolling. Kevin Smith, mostly known for his sharp, if profane, comedic dialogue has crafted one hell of a thriller. 
It's fairly evident early on that you're not watching a typical Smith film. This is a dark and complicated tale of right and wrong with some amazing acting and, I'll say it even if he won't, some superb direction. Smith is well known for editing his own work, and this one is cut perfectly to the second. There is not an ounce of wasted time in the 80 some odd minutes the tale unfolds itself in. It;s a lean mean storytelling machine. The picture painted is of fundamentalists so out of their minds that Pastor Fred Phelp seems almost rational in comparison. 
Michael Parks is a revelation and gives a tour de force performance as the charming, and almost paternal preacher. This is a man so tied to his belief, he is willing to do anything to save his flock from the dangers that face modern society.
It's easy to write him and the rest of the film as being anti-religion, but that's a narrow, pedantic view. Smith himself is a self-avowed Christian. It's not religion or a belief in God that he shines his spotlight on. It's the point in that belief when temperance ceases to exist and rationale walks out the door. Parks is all too believable in the role, and makes it almost easy to see why the people under him follow his words. 
There is a moment, a perfect, quiet moment, early in the film where Parks is idly sipping coffee as his troupe picket outside a funeral that shows the more diabolical nature of his persona. He is so cold and calculating in that one moment, that the rest of the movie feeds off of it, even though it probably escapes the average eye. 
John Goodman is fantastic as the reluctant ATF agent sent to deal with Parks' group. He is at once a dominant force and a man so clearly out of his element and unsure of his place that his dynamic alone could make the film. Add to that Parks and the zealots, and the movie reaches a whole new level. 
Smith has announced that his next two-part film will be his last, and that's a shame, because he has really shown that he is capable of making outstanding films beyond his usual comedic brilliance. So much so, that he does himself a disservice making this his penultimate film. Hit Somebody has some mighty big shoes to measure up to. I hope he really does see where the puck is headed and can score like old number 99. 
Do yourself a favor and immediately set your video on demand service to record Red State and, if given the chance in your area, go out to see it.

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