I’ve always been a fan of Kevin Smith the man as opposed to Kevin Smith the film maker. He’s always come off in interviews as a really cool guy with a lot of great ideas; I’m a big fan of his various podcasts on his “Smodcast Network.” That’s not to say that I don’t enjoy some of his work such as “Mallrats”, “Jay and silent Bob Strike Back” or “Clerks,” but there was much more on the table with his new film “Red State”. He pretty much did the whole thing himself from securing financing, writing, editing and marketing. He took the film out on tour earlier this year, playing different cities like a band promoting a new album. I thought that was pretty badass .This past weekend, Red State played simultaneously in a number of cities. When I discovered this, I decided that it would be a good mission to check out the movie in New Jersey, Smith’s home state.
I picked Jaclyn up at 16:00 and we shipped out. It was a good day out, an opportunity to get out of the city, breathe some clean air and hopefully see a decent movie. We crossed the Verrazano Bridge, traversed Staten Island and were soon heading south on the Garden State Parkway. I had “Las Vegas Story” by Gun Club playing, the windows were down and the cool air washed over both of us. It was a good moment where neither the future nor the past seemed to matter very much. I spend so much of my time in the future or the past, either working towards some goal or reliving some past failure, it was nice to be in the now.
We arrived at Deal Park about 30 minutes early and found the Axelrod Performing Arts Center, essentially a community arts facility attached a Yeshiva. Jaclyn realized that she had a friend from her childhood that had lived in Deal Park, NJ. She remembered addressing a letter to her and writing “Deal Park” on the envelope.
It wasn’t immediately clear to us where to enter. We spotted a guy and a girl across the parking lot approaching the building and we followed them in. We saw a Red State movie poster in the lobby so we figured that we were in the right place. I think about 5 people showed up.
I don’t want to give anything away because I realize that a lot of people haven’t seen the film yet. It was a solid movie experience, way different than any of Smith’s other work. There are moments of black humor but most of the movie is intensely violent and a sort of sullen vibe permeates the film. Michael Parks delivers a championship performance as Abin Cooper, a leader of a cult-like, fundamental Christian “family” that has an uncanny resemblance to the Fred Phelps’ Westboro Baptist Church. Phelps is even referenced in the movie. This is the setting for the film: Christian wackos, abducted young men seeking sex and an ATF search and destroy squad let by John Goodman.
The movie is well-paced and there is a ton of violence. People get shot; people that you assume would make it to the end of the movie, get remorselessly gunned down. The only thing I had an issue with was the dialogue; that’s my criticism of all of Smiths films. The dialogue is a little clumsy but I can overlook that for the punch that the movie packs.