Review: ‘Red State’ (2011)

Yes, I am aware this film was released six months ago! And it is in fact over a year since it first appeared at Sundance Film Festival. I have spent a long time looking forward to watching it, and finally watched it last night. Unfortunately that meant I had six months worth of high expectations built up in my head, it’s hard not to with a big name like Kevin Smith, especially if you, like me are a fan with with DVDs on the shelf and posters on the wall. Consequently, I think, I was left feeling quite disappointed as the credits rolled. However, a nights reflection can change a previous conviction.

Starting from the top, the concept itself is fantastic. Smith expertly puts his extensive knowledge of Christian doctrine to excellent use, with a take on it I can’t imagine any other writer would be able, or perhaps bold enough to do. But fans be warned, this is no Dogma, this is no “buddy Christ” and quite right, too. This film shows Smith take on the much darker and controversial subject matter of the ‘extremists’ of Christianity and address it with a maturity that I would not have anticipated. There are jokes, but the passion he has for this subject matter is clear in the depiction of his genuinely menacing and sinister characters and the high levels of death and brutality that also came as a shock. No longer are we watching the comfortable caricatures of ‘evil’ in Smith’s early work, but hard-hitting characters filled with passion and rage, who are genuinely frightening in the threat they present. It is not an easy film to watch. This is something real, above the level of ‘dick jokes’, for which is he of self-proclaimed fame although the film is not entirely without, he gets as many as he can in at the beginning! 

To many people, this will not be the Kevin Smith they know and love but I think to really grasp the films merits you have to let that go. Ben Affleck is not there to moan and flick his hair, which many will celebrate, but similarly Jay and Silent Bob are not going to suddenly pop up and save the day as fans might expect. If you go into it wanting what you know, you are going to be disappointed, as I confess to being at first but Smith has done a bold thing and shrugged off what has made him famous, which I can really respect him for. At the same time, he has advanced the dexterity of his writing and the directing too has been done with excellent craft creating a film that is fast-paced, hard-hitting and sharp, very poignant, and yet still funny! Has Kevin Smith, as some have claimed ‘lost it?’ Well, if letting go of the past can really be called ‘losing’ it I suppose, yes. But I’m not concerned, because in doing so he’s found something else. I think there are still many more surprises to come from this man.

File:Red State Poster.jpg

Image Credit: SModcast Pictures (Obtainable from ‘IMP Awards’)

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