Friday, 14 October 2011

Red State


I went to see Kevin Smith's latest, Red State, pretty much as soon as it came out. It hasn't had a massive campaign in the UK, and I suppose it's quite a niche market film. Also, I went to see it on a Sunday afternoon; not exactly peak cinema time. Still, even accounting for all of this, I was quite surprised to find myself alone at the screening. Now, I've been to the cinema on my own many a time, but I have never been alone in a screening until Red State. Even the weekday, off-peak screening of The Skin I Live In that I attended a few weeks ago had three other hardcore fans in attendance. I found myself vaguely alarmed by my situation, especially when this trailer came on, as I'm sure you can imagine.

But now that I am no longer sitting alone in the dark, I can reflect upon the fact that, rather than being alarming, it was actually pretty strange that I should find myself alone in a screening of such a brilliant, blackly comic, gun-crazy critique of post 9/11 US society. Set almost entirely inside a compound belonging to a murderous family of fundamentalist Christians, Red State, while making the effort to distinguish itself from the real life Westboro Baptist Church (more commonly known as 'God Hates Fags'), clearly takes a hefty portion of inspiration from the above, as well as from the Waco Siege in the early nineties. Three teenage boys lured into the compound are to be tortured and murdered as irredeemable sinners; however, the plan goes wrong, the feds show up (led by the amazing John Goodman) and the fire fight to end all fire fights breaks out, the family having even more guns at their disposal than the feds themselves.

The film is brilliantly written with some killer one-liners, but ultimately it's the standout performances that stay with you - John Goodman as the lead cop, but especially Michael Parks as Pastor Abin Cooper (see above) who you might remember as Earl McGraw from Kill Bill: Vol. 1, and Esteban Vihaio from Kill Bill: Vol. 2. Parks plays Cooper so well that he almost disappears into the role, rather like Daniel Day Lewis in There Will Be Blood. Cooper is so twisted, so disgustingly maniacally evil that it is almost impossible to credit that people like him really exist on this earth (as unfortunately, we know they do). And yet, his character is at all times perfectly believable, and therefore quite terrifying. At least until, without giving too much away, he gets taken down a peg or two.

Red State twists and turns so much that it's impossible to predict; anything and everything can and does happen. After a while I stopped even trying to form ideas about what might be coming next. Kevin Smith is such an eclectic and imaginative filmmaker that you hardly know what to expect from him anyway, let alone in a movie like Red State; at one point (!slight spoiler!) he actually had me believing that he had made a film which really, honest-to-God, ended with The Rapture.

Red State is one of my current Films of the Moment; if you can find it being screened, go see it. It'll be very interesting to see where Smith goes from here.

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