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Red State: Kevin Smith takes on religious fanatics, sex, and the government

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Red State

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Kevin Smith’s “Red State” is a very unexpected film from the maker of slacker comedies and the like. Here comes a polished film shot for a modest budget in a short time. Kevin Smith even equates the experience to “Clerks”. He bought and distributed “Red State” himself in the DIY style of “Clerks” to celebrate it’s anniversary. A lot of people thought he was crazy to buck the studio system at Sundance but it was a move that benefited not only Smith but the film.

If someone walked into “Red State” not knowing that it was a Smith film, they would have thought it heralded the arrival of a brilliant new talent. The film tackles subjects from Smith’s other films, namely religion and sex, but does so in a way that’s not stale. Three friends go out to meet a girl they met online for some quick sex. Things do not turn out to be what they expected as they end up prisoners of a fanatical religious cult whose main characteristic is their hatred toward homosexuals. Abin Cooper (Michael Parks) is the leader of the cult. Cooper is based upon Fred Phelps. However, Smith's script does not make Cooper a caricature but instead a fully fleshed out person. Parks performance is pure brilliance. He plays the cult leader with verve and charisma. Even though the character is a horrible representation of the human race, we are still drawn in because of the performance and his prescence. In the real world not everything is black and white but shades of gray and that is something that “Red State” excels in portraying. The good guys aren’t always on the side of right and the bad people have qualities that make you care more than you’d hoped.

It’s a shame that Smith says this is his next to last film because it’s almost like he’s found his second wind after the flop that was “Cop Out”. Smith now wants to focus on helping out new filmmakers. It’s admirable to be sure but if Smith were to continue on the path that “Red State” put him on, he could be a true force in the film world. “Red State” shows growth and an uncompromising vision. This could be the start of something new for Smith and while it’s great he wants to help new filmmakers, he should not just stop making films. “Red State” is a gripping film that hold the viewer rapt. It’s an unpredictable ride with many enjoyable performances. It’s been billed by some (perhaps because labeling it makes it easier to dismiss) as a horror film. I don’t necessarily agree with that classification. It has heart stoppingly suspenseful moments but it is a film that transcends genres. “Red State” is a film that is a must see! Do not miss it. It is one of 2011’s best and most refreshing films.

Bottom Line: "Red State" is a fantastic film that will surprise many. Smith may take on some usual topics common in his films but does so in a new and refreshing way.

Extras include a two part making-of featurette, Kevin Smith's Sundance speech, trailers, commentaries (over 5 hours worth), and a poster gallery.

"Red State" is available on DVD and Blu-ray from Best Buy, amazon.com, and Barnes And Noble.

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