Director: Kevin Smith (2011)
Starring: Michael Parks, Nicholas Braun, John Goodman
Find it: IMDB
Blatant schadenfreude for anyone who's ever looked at the Westbro Bastard clan and thought "I wish they would shut up." Trawling the Internets for sex, three horny American teenagers happen across a Craigslist-like website where a local lady promises to do the lot of them at once. I'm not sure why that would appeal to anyone, but the lads are thrilled. They jump in their car and take off to the woman's trailer forthwith. So far, so Inbetweeners. It's also schadenfreude, then, for anyone who's ever looked at a horny teenager and thought "DIE."
For pretty soon, Red State turns all Hostel; the youths find themselves captured by a deranged preacher (Parks) and his adoring followers. It's a film partly inspired by the infamous Westbro Church and partly by the infamous 1993 Waco siege which saw a cult of Bible lovers violently clash with US law enforcement. The latter influence is particularly well felt in the second half of the film, wherein it becomes less a horror movie and more a standard sort of action/thriller affair. Thankfully the horrible teenagers take a back seat, allowing the Reverend Cooper (who looks distractingly like an evil Richard Branson) and John Goodman's Federal Agent to take center stage. If there's a problem with the acting, it's the film's decision to have Stephen Root wasted on an awkward retread of his Office Space character.
Following the atrocious Cop Out and having read his Batman comics, I was ready to give up on Kevin Smith (that said, I am an unabashed fan of Jersey Girl, which everyone else seems to hate). But Red State is indeed the return to form that many proclaim. Much of that is down to the magnetic Michael Parks as the villain. Half an hour or so into the movie, there's a very lengthy scene in which Reverend Cooper delivers his sermon. Many movies wouldn't have survived such a prolonged lack of action, but the acting, script and direction ensures that it's not at all boring. It's actually the extended gunfights during which Red State flounders. It briefly finds its way again during a surreal showdown - and then loses it yet again in a silly, smug sequence that thinks itself cleverer/funnier than it is.
As critiques of religion go, Red State is smarter and more entertaining than most. It's not at all preachy and lacks the forced look-I've-read-the-Bible feel that so soured Dogma. Despite the difficult subject matter, it's a lot of fun. It's probably the most fun I've ever had with a Kevin Smith movie. And it raises a lot of questions too. Like, where did a bunch of hardline religion nuts come by a ball gag? Someone, it would seem, has been frequenting some very un-Christian shops. You can't just buy that shit in Sainsbury's, y'know. I actually tried: that's why I'm banned from Sainsbury's.
A great film from that Kevin Smith, Red State truly puts the fun and da mentalism into fundamentalism.