Moving on from the dumb and (increasingly) dumber crap on which he made his name, Kevin Smith regrettably expands his horizons with Red State, failing his own remedial course in history for dummies. Which has the odd effect of a narrative assault on an odious bunch extremist evangelists that is so extreme itself, that Smith’s rant may actually elicit cult sympathy for its overblown counter-demonization.
Set somewhere in a bible belt burb off the beaten path but really off the charts, Red State follows the misadventures of a trio of cyberporn-savvy horny high schoolers surfing online for three way sex. Which leads them to the somehow nearby rural wilderness of Cooper’s Dell – which more likely never even heard of the Internet – and an encounter with a bedraggled hillbilly version of a trailer park call girl (Melissa Leo).
And not unlike Hansel and Gretel in bondage to a wicked witch – but stuck against their will in an evangelical church rather than an oven – the boys find themselves beaten, caged and hung on church crosses. As they await the homicidal inbred flaky flock’s notion of Judgement Day, along with other hostages previously detained for infractions like being gay anywhere west of Monmouth County. And while the deranged deacon (Michael Parks) delivers a monotonous sermon in excruciating real time, before assembling a huge state of the art cache of military hardware from the congregation’s church basement arsenal hideaway.
And all of this in preparation for a ludicrous gun battle with a squadron of similarly out of control ATF bureau snipers, led by a gabby head federal agent (John Goodman). Who relays orders – when not reciting the entire remaining plot of the movie – via remote instructions barked into a Bluetooth in his ear from central headquarters. While an insane sidebar kicks in, having something to do with a neighboring hostile compost collective fronting for a marijuana farm, along with a discarded firehouse siren hooked up to an iPod that’s mistaken for God’s announcement of the apocalypse. And with a menu of intimations counting David Koresh and the horrific FBI Branch Davidian massacre down in Waco, and the notorious Westboro Baptist godlessness funeral protests out of Topeka, Kansas.
Clearly out of his cinematic comfort zone when straying from his down and out Jersey suburban roots and into exceedingly unfamiliar territory, Smith is more blue state myopic tourist with Red State, than entertaining or enlightening filmmaker. And ironically as humorless and fanatically excessive in this unfortunate instance, as the radical right he corrals in his crosshairs. Though Melissa Leo’s observation in the movie that ‘the World Wide Web is the devil’s playground,’ isn’t half bad.
On a side note, after the controversy surrounding Red State failed to produce a bidding studio buyer at Sundance, Kevin Smith scooped up his own movie for the sum of twenty dollars. And has been taking it around the country ever since, for one night stands in selective theaters.