"Kevin Smith is back behind the camera to take on sex, religion, gays and Middle America with what he likes to call his first horror movie. Three horny teenagers travel to Cooper's Dell after responding to an older woman's online invitation for sex. Turns out she’s a Christian extremist planning to drug them and lock them up for her leader. Abin Cooper (Michael Parks) heads the pack, holding them captive in a compound known as the Five Points Church. Turns out his people don’t like gays much, but even if you’re not gay, there’s a good chance they’ll kill you anyway. Their only hope lies in the arrival of Federal Agent Joseph Keenan (John Goodman) and his team, who are ready to take everybody down. Including innocent bystanders as it turns out, so it looks like the horny teenagers are bang out of luck whichever way they turn.
The opening act starts promisingly enough, setting the scene for some hardcore torture porn and God like retribution that never quite materialises. Smith’s characters do have a habit of talking too much, and while funny, there are times when you wish they’d just cut to the damn chase. That’s the biggest problem with Red State - there doesn’t seem to be an awful lot going on, and even at just over 80 minutes, Smith’s latest drags its heels to hell and back. Come the second act, the intriguing horror elements are dropped in favour of deafening gunfire, as John Goodman’s (lack of) hostage negotiation skills come into play. It’s loud and repetitive with little to cheer about, except for the occasional smart one liner. “You know how you get a valley so beautiful all to yourself?” “Put a giant f*cking cross on your front lawn”.
With so much ‘offensive’ material at his disposal Red State should’ve been a return to form, but Smith doesn’t seem to know what to do with it. There are points at which he could’ve taken the film in a different direction - one scene in particular astonishes with colossal potential - only for Smith to pull the rug from under our feet and play it for laughs instead. Parks and Goodman are outstanding, but with Red State Kevin Smith cops out for the second time in two years. It’s not a particularly bad movie, but I expect so much more from the guy who made Clerks - file away in ‘Disappointing’." AW