Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Red State (2011)

Note:  Spoilers, kinda.

Religion is an odd thing.  I know that’s hardly the most profound thing ever said.  Society allows for belief as long as the beliefs aren’t extreme and gel with the current wishy-washy view of things.  The folks at the Five Points church are literalists as far the Bible goes.  Pure unadulterated Old Testament wrath of God hate the sinners and sins believers.  None of that modern God loves everyone business, nosirreebob.  You’d never hear them call anything “old stuff that doesn’t mean anything these days”.  That level of faith has always fascinated me.  

Red State is billed as a horror movie.  It isn’t.  It starts with a typical horror movie premise.  Three high school boys are going to get laid.  The lady is someone they find on the internet.  Bad shit happens to them as a result.  That set up is the closest it comes to horror.

If anything it is a movie about Kevin Smith’s fascination with Fred Phelps and the Westboro parishioners who picket the funerals of gays.  I haven’t read much about where the idea came from but I imagine that the Dogma protesters may be in here somewhere as well.

After the boys arrive at the trailer of the internet lady she offers beer that is drugged.  The boys come to at the Five Points church in the midst of a sermon by Pastor Abin Cooper who is played so very nicely by Michael Parks.  Cooper isn’t menacing or a cartoon stereotype of villainy, he just believes that his path is the most correct path possible and does the things he does based on that belief.   In most movies he would be portrayed as a mustache twirling, over the top crazy evil guy.  Smith writes him, not sympathetically exactly, but fairly.  The sermon is largely about not putting up with the accepted evils of the world and the how people of God have a duty and so on.  They then wrap a gay man in plastic in front of a cross and shoot him in the head.  Two of the boys are in a hole in the basement and the third is in a cage and scheduled to die next.  

Earlier, on the way to meet the lady, the boys side swipe a car with a guy getting head from another guy.  The guy getting head turns out to be the married local sheriff.  He sends a deputy out to look for the car.  One of the boys in the basement, around the time the deputy finds the car at the compound, tries to escape.  Shots are fired and the deputy hears them and is promptly shot.  Cooper threatens to out the sheriff if it isn’t covered up.  The sheriff considers suicide but calls the ATF instead.  I’m not clear on how that will help his situation but the guy is under pressure so I’ll give him the benefit of the doubt.

The ATF agent put in charge is played by John Goodman.  He has 18 years in the agency and Goodman plays him like a guy who is probably weary of all criminal shit he’s seen in those 18 years.  While it isn’t exactly a Tommy Lee Jones in No Country for Old Men level performance, I could see the two of them get together for a beer and discuss things.  After the local sheriff kills one of the other boys who is trying to escape because he had a gun, the movie becomes a siege movie.  It seems loosely modeled after the thing in Waco.
I’m going to stop the plot right there and let you watch it for yourselves.

Parks and Goodman really do shine here.  They are two old guys who have seen too much they don’t like about human behavior and react differently to it.  There is a nice funhouse mirror aspect to the characters.

While watching the movie I had a hard time recognizing the Kevin Smith in the movie.  Gone is the flat direction where a camera is pointed at a couple of people who have to mouth Smith’s reams of dialog about Star Wars and what not.  Here the camera actually moves.  It really is a breakthrough for him after 15 years and 7 or 8 movies.  If Smith really makes good on retiring after this he is doing himself a great injustice.
I really do recommend watching it.  

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