Red State

Dir: Kevin Smith
Star: Michael Parks, John Goodman, Melissa Leo, Michael Angarano

Travis (Angarano) and his two high-school friends head out for what they hope to be a hot date with a woman they met online (Leo). However, she drugs them, and they wake up to found themselves captives of her husband, Abin Cooper (Parks), a Christian fundamentalist preacher with a hardcore approach to sin, and the punishment of those who commit it. Travis watches as another captive is tied to a cross and shot dead; making a break for freedom, he finds the church's large cache of arms. The gun-fight between prisoners and the church-goers alerts local police, and the ATF, under Agent Keenan (Goodman) lay siege to the church compound. In echoes of Waco, the siege goes wrong, and the word comes down from Keenan's bosses, that no witnesses must be left: everyone inside the compound, including hostages and the children also present, must die. Keenan is not too convinced by this, but can he resolve the explosive situation before the press arrive, to turn things into the media sideshow his bosses are intent on avoiding?

I came in with not too much idea of what to expect: vaguely some kind of teen slasher with Pastor Cooper as the villain. This goes down that route initially, before mutating into a political action flick, and finally flirts with delivering the apocalypse - even as a devout agnostic, I think it would have been incredibly cool had it gone full-force for that route [Smith thought about it, but decided it would be too much like Dogma]. However, what you get is much less polemic than I expected: no-one comes out with much credit here, even Cooper is not portrayed as entirely evil, or at least, is given the opportunity to justify himself. On the downside, as well as the disappointing ending, one wonders if liberal America would be quite as pleased with a feature that portrayed, say, a bunch of crackpot Muslims or Jews offing those who disagreed with them? Otherwise, it's certainly bleak and cynical enough for my tastes, painting a grim picture of the current state of the United States. Clerks 3, it definitely is not: and that isn't necessarily bad.

[August 2011]

Church of the
poisoned mind
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