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"Red State" Review

Kevin Smith says he's retiring after his next movie, the hockey flick Hit Somebody. Frankly, he should've quit two movies ago, thus sparing his former fans the one-two letdowns of simply awful Cop Out and now the jaw-droppingly terrible Red State. This has been Smith's passion project for over five years, something he always said was next after whatever he was making or promoting. Supposedly a horror film, the only horror is how bad it is.

A trio of horny high school boys seeking to hook up with a 38-year-old woman one met on the Internet walk into the most obvious trap ever and find themselves held captive by a family of religious weirdos with a ton of guns. (Think: Fred Phelps' godless hate mongers crossed with the Branch Davidians of Waco massacre infamy.) When a sheriff's deputy is killed at the cult's compound, the ATF arrives on the scene and things rapidly degenerate into what can only be described as government-conducted genocide. It's so unrealistic that even as satire, it stretches disbelief suspension beyond the breaking point.

Until these last two flops, my least favorite Smith film was Dogma in which I thought his ambition outstripped is directorial skills to manage his sprawling thesis, but that was his fourth movie; Red State is his tenth and other than some trademark potty talk, there is nothing which indicates this movie was made by Smith. The action direction is haphazard and mistakes shaky camera and narrow-angle shutter for kinetic technique and he is so in love with his script, he allows the sermons by Michael Parks (magnetic as the cult leader) to prattle on until I started nodding off. Less successful are the supporting performances, especially a shrill and unrecognizable Melissa Leo as one of Banks' daughters.

After the shenanigans Smith pulled at Sundance this year - retaining the distribution rights for himself to exhibit it on a road show basis to cover for the fact that no studio wanted to put it out, including longtime backers the Weinstein brothers - and the buzz about the clumsy religion-bashing, I'd been unenthusiastic about watching Red State, but nothing could've prepared be for just how bad the whole thing is.

There were several spots where I wanted to just shut it off, but gutted it out to see just how far down the elevator went. (Do I get a medal?) The characters never quite make it to being two-dimensional and thus with no one to root for and no understanding of the villains other than they be crazy inbred Jeebus rednecks,  it's just a grating endurance test. It's sad to see that Smith has crawled up his own fat ass and died, insulated from the need to make competent movies by millions of Twitter followers who will lap up whatever he gives them. Robert Rodriguez has been slipping as of late, but he hasn't slid off the cliff like Kevin Smith. Yet.

Score: 1/10. Skip it. Seriously.


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