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.
Kevin Smith is a man who needs little introduction among film enthusiasts, he entered the film scene via his independently made film ‘Clerks’ in 1994 which was picked up on the festival circuit for wider distribution. From there things progressed well for him as he followed up with films including among others ‘Mallrats’, ‘Chasing Amy’, ‘Dogma’, and ‘Clerks 2’.
These days Kevin Smith is more occupied with his Smodcast network of podcast shows, as well as SIR, the Smodcast Internet Radio station he launched earlier this year. Smith has been saying for some time now via his various live appearances and his podcast network that he’s reaching the end of his time as a filmmaker, and that ‘Red State’ is most like to be his second to last film, with ‘Hit Somebody’ centered in the world of ice hockey likely to be his final directorial project.
‘Red State’ represents something unlike anything Smith has been involved with before, he assembled an excellent cast and chose to produce this film on a minimal production budget of approximately $4 million. While the film displays sound production values, and is impressive given the budget allocated to the film, it is quite obvious from the opening scene that this is a low budget affair, however this does nothing to detract from the quality of the film.
‘Red State’ takes the controversial notion of religious intolerance and zealotry and immerses itself within, the film is both intense and suspenseful, not to mention emotionally stirring as over its short running time it follows a number of different groups of characters all converging together with extreme consequences.
The shooting style of the film is initially a little jarring, however it quickly settles into a style that remains consistent for the remainder of the film. While the intensity achieved is high, despite its best efforts it does struggle to maintain this over the course of the entire running time.
The performances of the cast are excellent, through quality actors and some career best direction, Kevin Smith has excelled at getting the best possible performances from his cast and this is true across all those involved. Michael Parks is receiving much credit for his role in this film and deservedly so, however Melissa Leo and John Goodman both deliver in their respective roles, and the younger cast of Michael Angarano, Nicholas Braun, Kyle Gallner and Kaylee DeFer all round out the film well.
There are a number of fast paced sequences which occur, these have been shot and edited together in a gripping fashion and complements the feel of the film so well. The weaving between the smaller character moments and the wider conflict at hand also allows the film to make the most of its characters despite not really taking the time to develop them more thoroughly. In fact in the wider context of the film the minimal time required is taken to establish each character’s situation making for effective but very tight character development which services the objectives of ‘Red State’.
For the most part, you’d never think that Kevin Smith is the main force behind this production, however over the course of the final few minutes he returns to a very classic Kevin Smith style which reminds everyone where this has come from. Whether this detracts from the film is most likely going to depend on whether a viewer is a fan or not, however it doesn’t detract from the achievement of the film prior to that scene.
‘Red State’ is just something different, it’s controversial, it’s extreme, and it has come from an unlikely source. Call this project a change in style or an advance in skill as a film maker but for this to be released in the context of Smith’s assurance that his film career is coming to an end, is truly a shame for it leaves me wondering what films he may have made in future years beyond the project ‘Hit Somebody.’
I’m giving ‘Red State’ 3.5 out of 5 stars, it’s not a film for everybody, but for those with an interest, it is a recommended viewing experience.
‘Red State’ is out in limited release from Thursday 13 October 2011.