Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Red State (2011)

     Kevin Smith's Red State (2011) stands as a near perfect example of how not to tell a story in film.  From its awkward imposed monologues to insert expository material to its inconsistent, schizophrenic emotional tone, to its thorough lack of any point or entertainment value as a whole, this movie is an unabashed disaster.  That is not to say that there have not been worse movies made, but I seriously doubt the directors of those have been as smug or self-satisfied as Smith seems to be with his own work.  If I were more generous, I could point out that Smith could have broken this into three separate films – each of which would have allowed for traditional storytelling or plot structure – and been better off for it.  His attempt to mash the disparate elements together comes off as amateurish and unimpressive; he should definitely be beyond the first by now.
     The sole bright point of the movie was the character of Cheyenne (Kerry Bishé), who has some depth and meaning beyond the leaden sermons and grindhouse style action sequences.  That writer-director Smith does not know what to do with the character – with any of the characters – may prove that Smith just isn't fit to be making films at this point.  Bishé stands out against the more established actors in being able to depict internal conflict without being obvious or dropping into caricature.  That may just be the writing, or Smith may have just decided that there only needed to be one role that really made the idea of conflicted loyalties and obligations well.  (I don't want to rag on Michael Angarano, an actor I usually enjoy, but he is not given enough to do – and what his character is allowed to do is often poorly shot – and his character feels thoroughly false.)
     There are many bad things I could write about this film, but what's the point?  It has the one bright spot.  Think of it as the cupcake in the pile of shit.  No matter how much you like cupcakes – and if you aren't starving – you aren't going for the one steeped in manure.  There isn't any social commentary here (though I'm sure Smith thinks there is).  It isn't the "actor's catnip" he thinks it is – who would want to be a part of something like this? – and it isn't going to matter in the space of a year.  All Red State did for me was convince me that Smith has no voice past Clerks II (2006).

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