Sundance Review: ‘Red State’

I think I liked ‘Red State’ more than the average critic. I like its frantic pace and its completely nutty religious wackos. Michael Parks is amazing as the enigmatic cult leader. It’s an all-around fun little film that really caught me by surprise.

Red State

Directed by Kevin Smith
Starring: Michael Parks, John Goodman, and Melissa Leo

With the hullabaloo surrounding ‘Red State’ and its premiere, it was pretty easy for most people to become soured against the film before even seeing it. It’s true that Kevin Smith had been running his mouth quite a bit before the movie even screened.

There are a few things that I really like about ‘Red State’. First off, no one is safe. Absolutely no one. That makes a movie fun. Usually, we have a few main characters that we know will never be killed off. That’s not true of ‘Red State’. Anyone can die. Anyone. I love Michael Parks in this. His sermon at the beginning conjures up just as much fear and foreboding as Christopher Waltz’s opening performance in ‘Inglourious Basterds‘.

However, I don’t care for Kevin Smith’s soap box preaching through his dialogue. He becomes almost as preachy as the religious people that he can’t stand. It borders on hypocrisy. Still, when the dialogue is good, it crackles. I also don’t really like that halfway through, the film turns into a story about government bureaucracy at its worst. Pick a subject and stick with it. Sheesh!

A lot of people have exclaimed that ‘Red State’ is really violent. I don’t think it’s that violent. Intense? Yes. Fairly graphic? Yes. Compared to some of the other movies at the festival, though, this violence is pretty mild. It’s more like ‘Die Hard’ type of violence.

In the end, I like ‘Red State’, but it isn’t something that will be on anyone’s Top 10 lists come the end of 2011.


  1. Alex

    Aaron, can you please explain what about this movie is causing so much controversy (if it’s not a particularly bad spoiler)? You mentioned the protests and counter-protests, but I’m still not exactly clear what plot points of the movie are causing a hubbub.

    • The controversy stems from when ‘Dogma’ was released. The same people protested that movie. The movie isn’t really controversial by itself, it’s just that the church in question doesn’t like Smith.

      The most controversial thing about the movie is its depiction of a religious sect. It shows them protesting a gay man’s funeral (like some of them do). I don’t know. There’s no REAL reason for all the hullabaloo except that this particular Baptist church just doesn’t like Smith at all.

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