Red State (R18)

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The ViewAuckland Review

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Review byMatthew Turner29/09/2011

Three out of Five stars
Running time: 89 mins

Impressively shot and superbly acted, this is an intriguing change of direction from Kevin Smith that's interesting enough to scrape a pass, even if it doesn't always work.

What's it all about?
Written and directed by Kevin Smith, Red State stars Michael Angarano, Kyle Gallner and Nicholas Braun as Travis, Jarod and Billy-Ray, three horny Middle-America teenagers who attempt to meet up with a 38 year old woman (Melissa Leo) for group sex after finding her through a phone application (beware the evils of phone apps, kids!). However, the woman turns out to be bait and the three teens find themselves caged and wheeled before the baying members of a religious cult, where fundamentalist preacher Abin Cooper (Michael Parks) is preparing to execute them.

Fortunately, help is at hand in the form of ATF agent Joseph Keenan (John Goodman) and things quickly develop into a Waco-style stand-off as Keenan's team surround the cult's isolated church. However, Keenan's hand is forced by a trigger-happy Sheriff (Stephen Root) and he's soon under pressure to contain the situation by whatever means necessary.

The Good
The performances are superb, particularly the always excellent Leo and Goodman, while Michael Parks is suitably disturbing as Cooper without descending too far into caricature. Similarly, Angarano is good as the least up-for-group-sex member of the trio, though it's hard to care all that much about Gallner and Braun.

The most intriguing thing about Red State is its daring central shift from torture porn-style horror to thriller and then political satire. Smith just about makes this work, even if some of the elements are stronger than others; at any rate, he proves an adept director of shoot-outs and some of the camerawork is more risky and experimental than we're used to seeing in his films, most notably during an extended and effective close-up sequence involving Angarano's character.

The Bad
The main problem with the script is that the dialogue is much stronger in the character interaction (particularly between the three teens and between Goodman and his men) than it is when it comes to the sermonising or the political satire (there's a supposedly pointed coda that doesn't really work). Similarly, though the religious fanaticism is handled in an interesting way, the Waco-style conspiracy angle seems like overly familiar territory and lacks the dramatic impact it's supposed to have.

Worth seeing?
Red State is an entertaining, well acted horror-slash-thriller that marks an intriguing change of direction for writer-director Kevin Smith. Worth seeing.

Film Trailer

Red State (R18)
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Content updated: 26/08/2019 00:42

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