Sunday, November 6, 2011

Kevin Smith: Pushing that Button (Red State)

Melissa Leo, Red State, Lionsgate Films, 2011.

Kevin Smith has built up an idiosyncratic place among American filmmakers. He is one of the rare comedic helmers who also happens to be a brilliantly cohesive artist, who utilizes humor to illuminate facets of our society and ourselves. His visually ordinary films are a wealth of pun and circumstance, his scripts are delicate works of wastrel beauty. Even his most easily dismissed films, such as Mallrats, Jersey Girl and Cop Out offer shrewd youth culture, unwarranted emotionalism and astute, impassioned homaging to 80s cop buddy movies.

His strengths as a cinematic jester notwithstanding, Smith also triumphs as a cultural thermometer, haphazardly but ingeniously spewing back the marginalized climate. In this respect, his brave, odd new film, Red State, recalls his best film yet, Dogma, in that they both reflect the status quo with a wickedly young at heart glint. Their writer-director walks the fine line of dark comedy expertly.

Smith utilizes a barebones digital look, and in his atmosphere and characterizations/dialogues, he cleverly spoofs both generic empires of the teen comedy and the teen horror films of recent. This escalates into something much more fundamentally wrong , not in our cinemas, but on our streets. The Manson Family meets Waco as teen horror suddenly segues into a stand-off between a demented religious cult and the disorganized FBI.

Michael Parks, John Goodman and Melisso Leo all head the game cast with ferocious performances, some of the best work for all three in some time. Smith teetoes the highwire between satire and terror, pushing that red button, bulldozing religion and government frailties in an exploitational devotional.

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