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Josh Reviews Kevin Smith’s Red State

As I wrote recently in my review of Jay and Silent Bob Reboot, for the first decade or so of Kevin Smith’s film career I was a huge fan.  I still have a lot of love in my heart for his first run of films: Clerks, Mallrats, Chasing Amy, Dogma, and Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back.  Things got a little wobblier beginning with Jersey Girl, though.  The recent Jay and Silent Bob Reboot is not a great film by any stretch of the imagination, but it’s the first Kevin Smith film I have unabashedly enjoyed since 2001’s Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back.  Even when I wasn’t loving his films, for the most part I did still make a point to go see any new Kevin Smith film, hoping for one that would recapture what I’d used to love in his movies.  But there were a few I’d missed along the way.  Red State was one of those; I’m not a horror movie fan, and so the idea of Kevin Smith leaving his comfort zone to make a horror movie was not a pitch that appealed to me.  However, for years I’ve been sort of curious as to what Red State was all about.  After enjoying Jay and Silent Bob Reboot, I decided to finally go back and fill in this hole in my viewing of Mr. Smith’s filmography.

The story of Red State begins when three teenagers decide to follow up on an online conversation with what they think is a single older woman offering to have sex with them.  Unfortunately for them, they’ve been ensnared in a scheme by a group of extreme Christian fundamentalists, who have decided that the time has come to take action against sinners.  When the local law enforcement gets wise to what is happening in this Church compound, the situation quickly escalates into a Waco-like violent siege…

Red State is not at all my type of film – I wrote above that I’m not a fan of horror movies, and Red State did not change my mind on that — but it is exceedingly well made.  I was very impressed!  Red State is easily the best directed movie of Kevin Smith’s career!  Sometimes I’ve found the directing in Mr. Smith’s films to be very basic – for example, I noted in my review of Jay and Silent Bob Reboot that I felt that the film had a flat look that seemed somewhat amateurish.  But Red State looked terrific!

The filmmaking was impressively gritty and raw.  I was sucked into the story, and I was impressed by how skillfully Mr. Smith was able to build up a very intense and suspenseful story.  … [continued]