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Red State

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Red State - 28/4/2012 2:43:50 AM   


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Red State
A slightly askew review by Oliver Partington

“Oh I fear God ... you’d better believe I fear God”

Chilling, haunting, morbid, and hilarious ... morbidly hilarious. The last releases that could take all these words in one sentence were Shaun Of The Dead and An American Werewolf In London, now joining the ranks is Kevin Smith’s latest: Red State, albeit with far less supernatural elements. In fact, the stark reality of Red State sets it far apart from your usual horror affair. It feels far more like something The Coen Brothers might produce - but this is entirely the brain child of Kevin Smith. And what a brainchild it is. Red State plays fast and loose with your expectations, starting out as a traditional Kevin Smith film but quickly evolves into something far more sinister. I’ve described the film so far as a horror, however there is a transition in the third act that takes it from Rosemary’s Baby to a Michael Mann thriller, with shoot-outs that easily rival Mann in their sudden and unexpected brutality. The best way to describe the picture’s style is by comparing it to other, similar films. Whereas with other Smith films, you can sum it up with ‘Clerks in a ...’ (ok well maybe except for Dogma), Red State doesn’t feel or move like a Kevin Smith film, it’s a different beast all together.

The film features plenty of fantastic performances but one in particular stands out - Michael Parks (From Dusk Till Dawn) in a thoroughly Oscar-worthy performance as Pastor Abin Cooper. He’s good. Oh my he’s good. It’s his performance that keeps you gripped throughout every genre transition. He grabs you by the throat with his first glance and refuses to loosen his grip for the 90-odd minutes remaining. His ten minute long sermon to the Cooper flock a short way into the film is nothing short of spellbinding. A charming old grandfather one moment and with a cock of the head he’s without any warning an insane and charismatic preacher and always in absolute control of his performance. More Abin Cooper please, more Michael Parks please. Of course he’s not the only actor worth mentioning here, the supporting cast are filled out by Melissa Leo (The Fighter), John Goodman (The Big Lebowski), Stephen Root (Newsradio, I know it’s not a film ... but it is a brilliant US sitcom) and Kevin Pollack in a fantastic cameo role. They all play their parts with due relish and respect for the script.

Smith’s traditional cinematographer David Klein returns and his efforts are very impressive. Kevin Smith’s films are often unfairly criticised for their visual style but the nay-sayers will certainly change their mind on Red State. Although there was nothing wrong with the look of Smith’s comedies, the bar is raised and then some. Shot totally on RED digital cameras, the look of Red State feels almost like a documentary at times. The dark and gritty style is a real asset to the film and is one of the stars in it’s own right.

Unfortunately, while I loved the constant genre shifts, not everyone likes to be kept on their toes - if there is a flaw in his system it’s that when the move from humour to horror, the humour isn’t left entirely behind. While that works for Shaun or American Werewolf, the horror in Red State is so stark, so brutal and so realistic that the later humour feels a little bit misplaced at times. I didn’t really have a problem with that but perhaps if I wasn’t such a Kevin Smith fan, I might have been more willing to see the flaws.

Review in a nutshell: Worth a watch if for nothing else than the best screen villain of 2011 - Michael Parks.


From one film lover to another (few), check out my film review blog at - hope you enjoy!
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