I was interested to see Red State as I’ve liked all of Kevin Smith’s films bar Cop Out and as I consider him an intelligent guy was curious to see how he would tackle the issue of dangerous fundamentalist religious groups. Using it as the premise for a horror story sounded full of potential. I was sad to see how much the movie disappointed. It’s been a while since I saw a movie that was so mixed up in what it was trying to say or what it wanted to be. The movie starts off with three teens responding to an ad for a woman who is up for sex and so off they go hormonally charged full of anticipation and glee at what awaits. Of course this goes horribly wrong, and they wake up prisoners of the crazy scary religious people. It’s interesting to note that at the start of the film the fictional religious group seems to be a direct parallel to the Westboro Baptist Church, only for Fred Phelps to be mentioned and then dismissed as not as crazy.
This first part of the film is excellent and had it continued along this path could have been a great film. Part of what makes that aspect of the film great is because it is so very plausible. The film then makes a radical departure to a long drawn out firefight between the ATF and this religious group. This goes on for far too long, maybe 30 minutes too long. It doesn’t progress the story in any way nor does it really give insight into the crazy religious people. After the unnecessarily long drawn out firefight it seems to be a random attack on the US government. The lead ATF agent played by John Goodman is at a hearing to defend his actions, where the government representatives basically say outright how they are fine with killing people, how the terrorism laws are deliberately vague so they can be abused. It makes them look so bad that is it not at all believable. It seems like Smith wanted to comment on some of what has happened to the US in the last decade but it is shoehorned in and doesn’t help the film at all.
Done with subtext and drawing parallels with the film focusing on dangerous crazy religious people this could have been an amazing film. As it is it is all over the place and doesn’t seem to really know what it is trying to be. Which is a shame.