Red State (2011)

Red State (2011)
Red State (2011) DVD / Blu-ray

By: Bill Arceneaux (A Toast) –
How many beers do you recommend for this movie?
1 Beer! A Toast! Great Movie!2 Beers! Good Movie!3 Beers! Okay Movie!4 Beers! Mediocre Movie!5 Beers! Awful Movie!6-Pack! Bad movie! Do not be Sober!

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Back in 2005, Kevin Smith went on the View Askewniverse Message Board and discussed the possibility of a sequel to Dogma:

“Back when I made Dogma, I always maintained that another movie about religion wouldn’t be forthcoming, as Dogma was the product of 28 years of religious and spiritual meditation, and I’d kinda shot my wad on the subject. Now? I think I might have more to say.”

Red State, I believe, IS that sequel. Well, a thematic sequel, anyways. What do I mean by that? Well, if Dogma showed that faith is a funny thing, Red State shows what happens when faith grabs a gun.

The film follows the exploits of the Five Points Church, made up of its leader Abin Cooper (Michael Parks) and his extended family. They are meant to be taken as a satirical portrayal of the Westboro Baptist Church– they protest funerals and give hate speeches – but satirical turns violent when they lure a trio of teens into their compound.

A Toast

For those expecting a comedy about relationships, be warned; aside from some heavy dialogue, this is a radically different Kevin Smith film. This movie is filled with creeps, bullets, blood, death and Waco/Ruby Ridge imagery. For a guy that recently brought us Tracy Morgan dressed as a cell phone, this is quite a shift.

This is a Kevin Smith movie?

Not lost in that shift is the acting. John Goodman and Michael Parks – as Agent Keenan and Abin Cooper respectively – deliver the movie’s finest performances, and it’s not a surprise, given both men’s experience. Parks’ Abin Cooper is disturbingly calm and caring for someone who espouses such vile rhetoric. And as Keenan, Goodman provides us with the man who learns the movie’s lesson.

Five Points Church vs. ATF, or Cooper vs. Keenan, can be seen as a literal battle of Church vs. State. However, by the time the battle happens, it is unclear as to who the real enemy is. The first half of the movie follows the path of a horror film, revealing that the church has a cache of weapons, and is perfectly willing to execute anybody that they deem a sinner. In the second half, it’s revealed that the ATF (or government) are just as armed and just as willing. When things turn into a public relations nightmare, the decision is made by a disembodied higher ranking official to take no prisoners. By contrast, when a raid looks imminent, the Coopers feel they have been called on by a higher power to fight until the last breath.

If Michael Parks were my pastor…

Having witnessed such brutality, Keenan offers up, “People just do the strangest things when they believe they’re entitled. But they do even stranger things when they just plain believe”. With that, Kevin Smith re-delivers his message from Dogma, but this time with a bullet.

Verdict


This is a fresh kind of film from the man behind the View Askewniverse. People have been/will probably be put off by the content – but remember that with a movie like this, things aren’t as easy as good vs. bad or black and white.

 The Askewniverse gives not a review, but a reaction

Bonus Drinking Game

Take a drink: every time a character says fuck or bitch

Take a drink: for every minute Abin Cooper gives his main sermon (not recommended)

Take a drink: for every character shot in the head.

About Bill Arceneaux

Independent film critic from New Orleans and member of the Southeastern Film Critics Association (SEFCA).

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