My fellow Wetalkers make great pains to go out of their way to bring up their distaste of Kevin Smith’s latest film Red State. When this happens on the podcast you’ll most likely hear an apologetically pathetic “It’s not that bad” in the background coming from yours truly. The reason that it’s pathetic is I really don’t want to be called on to defend the film. In truth I can’t say I like the film, but to actively dislike the film is another matter altogether.
Just to fill you in on a little background, Kevin Smith is a film-maker that has had a great influence on me. I was a clerk at a convenience store when I first saw Clerks, and his first films made film seem like a viable medium to pursue. This lead to my choice of profession, and a general geek/slacker outlook on life. Over the years, Kevin Smiths output has followed the rule of diminishing returns. I can’t say the few comic books he’s written have fulfilled the promises they made, and his film output has simply been rehashes of earlier success. Still I was a fan, cheering him on.
I always felt that Kevin Smith should broaden his idea what a View Askew picture is, and that a return to greatness would ensure when he did. After all, Chasing Amy had dramatic moments, which contributed to making it my favorite of his films. Then, as if he read my mind, an announcement Kevin Smith was to begin work on a horror film entitled Red State following his completion of Jersey Girl. At last we would see what an artiste he was. The wait for Red State was long; the powers that be made fundraising hard, Kevin took other work, Clerks 2, TV pilots, and scripts for other movies. Still I was hopeful that I get to see this mysterious horror by this iconic film maker.
Looking back on it now, all the warning signs were there. Kevin Smiths apologetic rants on the commentary tracks whenever an action scene was absolutely necessary in one of his comedic films, the delay in the production itself, and Kevin’s lack of enthusiasm when asked of the project. Still, as I and others discussed Red State online, in comic shops, and in video stores, this was to be the return.
Finally, the production started and details began to roll out. This was not to be a horror film but a horror/drama/grindhouse film. I was still hopeful; after all I just wanted to see Kevin Smith do something different. Michael Parks and John Goodman reported to set, I could not have been happier. Then as quickly as it began it was finished, and not only that I’d get to see it sooner because it wasn’t being distributed through a studio.
Sitting down to watch it, my enthusiasm was high but I also remained a little fearful, after all this is the man who made Cop Out and Jersey Girl. After the viewing I felt a little sick. The film was exactly what he promised a horror, drama, and grindhouse film, but for me the weird mosaic of styles did not hold together. Personally I felt the dialog, some of performances and characterizations work, but could not make up for the lack of narrative structure or budget casting.
Having said all this you may ask how you could then say “It’s not that bad”. The answer is simply, it’s not that bad. The fans asked for this film and Kevin Smith stated numerous times that he probably shouldn’t make a non-comedic film. If the film were to be made by another film-maker I would have watched it and dismissed it, but it certainly would not have inspired the bile my fellow wetalkers seem to feel a need to expess. This film respected its audience unlike most Hollywood blockbusters (Transformers series), and it’s better made than a film that Uwe Boll ever put together, so I can’t be offended by it. Simply put, in my mind it’s a film the fans asked for and got, so what if it wasn’t a good idea in the first place.
To view Mo’s point / counterpoint comeback on the quality of this film read In Defense of Red State – The Rebuttal by clicking here