Kevin Smith’s Red State is a knockout and in line with his consistently iconoclastic oeuvre – Clerks, Clerks 2, Jay And Silent Bob Strike Back, Dogma and Zac And Miri Make A Porno. Red State packs a punch for those who are on side with Smith’s rant against fundamentalism (and who wouldn’t be?) and is a kick in the head for fundamentalists of all persuasions. It is a film about the hypocrisy found in sex, religion and politics in the USA and it shows - according to government agent Joseph Keenan (John Goodman) - how “people do the strangest things when they believe they are entitled to something… but, they do even stranger things when they just believe.”

And, this is strange indeed. In the opening scenes at a young gay man’s funeral, we see placards of hate and hypocrisy on show from the Christian Right. There is a part of this creepy American backwater that is brimming with ignorance and God-fearing folk, ready to blame everything ‘dirty’ on the internet and yet prepared to use this ‘tool of the devil’ if it suits them. It provides a means for one of the most hypocritical set-ups in the plot – via a website a bunch of holy-rollers lure a trio of hot-blooded young male victims to a predator’s lair, a liaison with none other than the queen of white trash roles, Melissa Leo, daughter of Pastor Abin Cooper (Michael Parks). Cooper is the leader of an extremist religious sect - think Waco, Branch-Davidian types.

The boys are drugged with laced beers, held captive and forced to endure a deluded (yet superbly written) rant given by the pastor in which he links the natural disasters that occurred in New Orleans (‘the devil’s own city’) and Thailand (‘full of pedophiles’) with the wrath of God and the coming ‘end times’ - I was waiting to hear the reason why Japan copped it, but I guess the film was in the can before that disaster. And just to reinforce his theories, the good pastor is prepared to hurry along the end of days for those he deems sinners.

When the cavalry arrives, headed by John Goodman, the movie starts to feel a little conventional but, remember, this is a Kevin Smith film so hang on to your hat, things are not going to go smoothly! Smith even throws in the Rapture – yes folks, this is a rollicking religious experience.

There are excellent performances all round, particularly from Goodman, Leo and Parks (Oscar anyone?), who are working with Smith’s superb script, and a terrific, moody soundtrack. The portrayal of violence, mingled with humour, make this a film not for the faint-hearted, but a must-see for those who have any concerns about religious conservatism and the paranoia expressed by the USA since 9/11.

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John Goodman
Melissa Leo,
Michael Parks
Michael Angarano

Kevin Smith

Kevin Smith


MA / 97 minutes

October 13, 2011
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moviereview colin fraser film movie australia review critic flicks