Ahoy, squirts! Quint here with a brief rundown of the big Red State Screening. I’ll have a full review of the movie itself before I crash tonight, but let’s get to the news.
Kevin Smith told us that he was going to pick a distributor at the screening and so he did. Even with Anchor Bay, Harvey Weinstein, Lionsgate and buyers of foreign rights from all over the world in attendance he never intended to sell the distribution rights to anybody but himself. This was moments before he bought the rights to distribute the movie, from his producer, for $20. That's Wayne Gretzky's hocky stick he's holding.
That’s right, he’s self distributing the movie, opening it up in many theaters, so he says, October 19th, the anniversary of his Clerks release.
Starting March 5th at Radio City Music Hall he’s going to be touring with Michael Parks, doing shows all over the Northeast, Midwest and even down in my neck of the woods, playing the Paramount Theater in Austin, TX
It’s a curious move, especially since he spent the majority of his Q&A time telling all the studios in the room how fucked up and stupid their system is. However, he went on to announce his retirement after Hit Somebody, his next film… which incidentally had a card dedicated to it at the end of Red State, saying that the majority of the cast of Red State will return in Hit Somebody, sometimes 2012.
I have to give some respect to Smith here to stand by his guns and put his money where his mouth is, but I do differ from his belief that he’s setting up the new wave of Independent cinema. The dude even pleaded to theater owners saying he’s got a crazy following, that he sells out tons of shows, etc. as a way to get them interested in partnering with him in the release of the movie.
And it very well could work for Smith. But not every filmmaker trying to make indie movies with their friends has a rabid fanbase that will buy up merch, spend prime money on speaking engagement tickets and pay what he said will likely be “6 to 7 times” the regular ticket price for this roadshow tour he’s going on.
Like I said, it could work for him specifically. He has the fanbase, but he already contradicted himself in his remarks, telling the audience why this system will work FOR HIM.
So, that’s the big news out of the screening. The movie itself is a mixed bag and I’m writing up some thoughts on that as you read this. I’ll update the story with the full review below, so keep checking back.
First of all, Red State is not a horror movie. It’s a Waco type movie. It starts off like a horror movie, but then we get a 20 minute long sermon from Michael Parks and it turns into a Church cult vs. one-dimensional ATF officers who are told to wipe them all out because they don’t want any witnesses.
So, ignore that trailer, ignore the creepy poster… it’s not a horror movie. I suppose in a manner of speaking it is, but no more so than any movie about extremists or a corrupt government is a horror movie.
Basically you have a group of teenagers (Michael Angarano, Kyle Gallner and Nicholas Braun) that find a Craigslist-type site where horny women advertise they want to fuck you. They get a response and, of course, it’s a trap. They’re captured by these crazy Church people and made examples in what looks to be a torture type movie. But that quickly changes and it turns immediately into a stand-off film where the cult members are fanatically crazy and the government employees are heartless puppets that act on orders from a telephone call thousands of miles away.
Yes. The answer to your first question is yes, Red State is better than Cop Out. Yes, it looks better projected than the footage from the trailer. Yes, it’s still obviously made on the cheap. Not necessarily a bad thing, but unfortunately the real shortcoming of the movie is usually where Smith’s strength lies… in the script.
This feels like a first draft. It’s as talky (if not moreso) than most Kevin Smith movies, but instead of using his dialogue to build complex or really funny characters, he’s using it to tell the story instead of show it. Having said that, the camera work is looser than ever before, but the movement feels more like he’s mimicking the typical low budget horror aesthetic than trying to craft something unique to fit the movie.
There are characters that are introduced as being important (like Stephen Root’s closeted Sheriff character) and Smith just uses him to move the plot along before getting him out of the story in what almost feels like a “Oh, shit… yeah, what happens to him? How about…” moment.
There’s a 15 minute long sermon that Michael Parks gives that shows off Parks’ fantastic acting ability, but just drones on for way too long. He repeats himself, repeats his purpose in the story. This is the kind of thing you find in a first draft, the fat of the story.
I’ll give Smith one thing, though, he cast very well. I think he way underused Root (who doesn’t give his best performance, due mainly to some choppy editing in his big emotional moment) and John Goodman is all over the place, sometimes giving top of his game line delivery and sometimes giving Uwe Boll level line deliver. Melissa Leo, one of the most devout members of this extremist church, devotes 100% to the role and doesn’t always stick the landing, but when she hits it’s the best stuff of the movie.
The kids are all pretty good, but again aren’t given much to do as the movie shapeshifts from a horror set up to a stand-off movie.
Then there’s the end, which I won’t spoil… something happens that could have taken it into a whole different level, a kind of batshit ending that could make me accept the movie as a whole (think Knowing) that is instead turned into a joke. Yeah, it’s kind of funny, but once again the joke is dragged out for almost 5 minutes as typical Kevin Smith funny-movie dialogue is spouted. It overstayed its welcome.
It surprises me that the script is so schizophrenic considering he’s been kicking around this idea for a long time. I would have thought that any shortcomings of the lower budget or rushed schedule or Smith’s own faults as a visual storyteller would have been in the forefront, but instead it’s the faults of the script that keep this movie from being great.
Red State isn’t horrible, there are some really good things in the flick, but it’s like a boat with a big hole in it. It still floats, barely, but goddamnit if they had just spent a little more time patching the hole before setting out the trip would have been nothing but smooth sailing.
Those are my initial thoughts on the movie. I don’t hate it, but can see a better movie in there. If Kevin Smith’s name wasn’t on this movie people would give it a glance and think it’s an okay direct to DVD movie with an above average cast doing above average DTV work.
While Red State is flawed, I do wish Smith all the best in his self-distribution. It’s a ballsy move and he could have just as easily taken the money and run with all the hype and publicity he had surrounding the premiere.
As someone who finds something to like in every Smith film (even Cop Out, which is horrible… and yes, I paid to see it opening weekend, Kevin, so I guess I’m allowed to have an opinion on it… even Cop Out has Seann William Scott doing funny things for a few movies) I’m not on the hater bandwagon. I’d love to see him step up with Hit Somebody and make a fantastic swan song of a movie. I just hope that he spends a little more time fine-tuning it than he seems to have done with Red State.
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