Kevin Smith’s Red State is finally available for wide viewing through Xbox Live, On Demand, or any number of other pay for early viewing services. At Sundance this year, Smith made quite the scene when he chose to not sell his movie to any distributor, and instead release Red State himself. Prior to its release in theaters Smith chose to tour with his movie to various American, Canadian, and venues abroad in a ballsy move that would put the Indie back into independent films. To this date, Smith’s gambit has been quite successful, and has surpassed its goal quicker than originally anticipated.
That just skims the surface of the multitude of avenues Kevin has taken to while advertising for Red State’s release. This has included a regularly released podcast named “Red State Of The Union” which highlighted many of the people who worked on, and with, the film, as well as featured questions from the fans in the audience. As a Kevin Smith fan, I of course devoured all the podcasts and any write-ups I could find about the movie.
I say all of the above out of honesty to the reader. I felt the need to watch Red State twice tonight, once as the eager fan that has waited a few years for Kevin to get a chance to make this movie and a second time with a need to separate the fan from the critic. After a year of so much Red State information, I came to realize that the first viewing was a bit tainted with an unfair expectation that had been built over the last year that the film could never hold up to. After a second viewing I do feel a bit more confident of my opinion, so without further adieu, I give you my review of Red State by Kevin Smith.
Right off the bat there’s a different tone within this movie than any of Kevin Smith’s other movies. Instead of witty quips seeped in pop culture by a cast of over-the-top characters, you get small slice of American life. Each one is not remembered because of a one-liner uttered at the perfect time, but instead for how the actor portrays them. There’s a mixture of seriousness that is held throughout that movie that starts from the very beginning. But that’s not to say Smith’s hand isn’t seen if you look close enough. With the first intimate conversation between the main three teens in the movie you hear some of Smith’s ability to easily portray banter between life-long friends.
The levity of the first few scenes within the movie gives you one last glimpse of the light prior to its slow trip into the dark unknown. This uneasiness is best felt when Michael Parks is on the screen. He conveys a mixture of fatherly tenderness and faith-based fanaticism that is absolutely riveting to watch. He has a way of making you want to get up out of your seat prior to realizing the inspiring words are nothing more than finely worded hatred. There’s a stretch of the film where you hear an actual sermon from Parks and while it was fantastic to watch, it almost felt a bit too long. I felt myself move from feeling unsettled to waiting for the sermon to complete. Soon after, the pace of the movie changes which almost makes the length of the sermon forgivable.
The rest of the movie seems to be running a race to its ending that is often too quick to comprehend what’s going on. What was built up with strong performances throughout the film is almost spent away once the action starts. The strong performances by John Goodman and Kerry Bishé almost seem like a waste when the whole movie is over before you have a true chance to savor their characters. But when it comes down to it you can’t critique a movie too much for leaving you wanting more.
Rich’s Recommended Viewing:
Opening Weekend – At The Theater – Rent It – Watch It On Cable – Stay Away! – 4/5
While a bit schizophrenic at times, I did find the movie to be quite enjoyable. It is filled to the brim with actors at the top of their game and their performances are worth the price of admission alone. This is a damn good departure from Kevin Smith’s wheelhouse, and I’d love to see what his next departure from comedy would have been. Unfortunately Smith has chosen to move on from directing features, and announced earlier this year that Hit Somebody would be his last set of movies. I like his unique outlook on humanity and hope that will continue to see his creativity used in other ways.