This one is a little shorter than the other one. This one has the spoilers.

Red State starts off with Travis (Michael Angarano) getting driven to school by his mom, they drive past a funeral for a local boy who was brutally murdered and who happened to be homosexual. His funeral being picketed by the Cooper family who are all members of the Five Points Church (as I mentioned in the other review, this family is heavily influenced by the Phelps family and the Westboro Baptist Church), poor Travis is late for school.

At a breakneck pace, we’re told that the Five Points Church is ultra conservative and ultra evil, his buddies Jared and Billy Ray are introduced and Jared convinces all of them to drive to Coopersdell (home of the Five Points Church) to gang bang a 38 year old lady they met online. Religion and dirty sex are pretty comfortable territory for Smith, this all rolls along smoothly and we have our set up.

After sideswiping Stephen Root’s car on the way to the illicit hookup, things get even worse as the trio are drugged and knocked out. They come to at the Cooper/Five Points compound and Michael Parks’ Pastor Abin Cooper delivers an extended sermon to his family, kills a homosexual who is plastic wrapped to a cross, and calls for Jared to be strung up on the cross afterwards. This scene is one of those longer scenes I talked about in the other review. Parks performance is awesome, it just went on a few minutes too long. It went from inducing tension to inducing a desire to just get on with the film. The monologue itself is fun though, with Parks delivery creepy as hell. Scares me to think there are people who think this way out there (even if they’re not all murderous psychos, it’s a thin line).

One of the boys makes a run for it and Smith demonstrates that apparently he can direct tense action sequences (this was actually something that had worried me from his mishandling of some of the action in Cop Out). Quick, choppy cuts of the fleeing boy being chased through narrow corridors and slamming into everything around him, religious diehards on his heels. Closeups of the characters, and jerky camera movement getting the point across. It doesn’t look like your typical action sequence, but Clerks didn’t look like your typical movie, it still served itself pretty well. Either way, it got me invested in the chase and when the runaway boy (Billy Ray) got a hold of an automatic rifle, I was pretty pumped for him. He got his head blown off anyways (although he did take out Ralph Garman’s creepy as fuck character Caleb), but the chase scene successfully got me invested in a character who up until that point was just comedy relief with a sweet rat tail mullet.

With one boy still stuck up on a cross, and the other dead, Travis gets a hold of the automatic rifle and has a chance to end everything by just machine gunning down the whole family. Does he? Nope. He runs. This is what I was talking about when I said people make bad decisions. I mean, he did the right thing: not mowing down strangers. However in a thriller, that’s probably the wrong thing. Smith sends us on an even longer chase scene through the compound that still manages to be nice and tense. He breaks out through the front door, racing for the gates. He’s promptly shot and killed by the ATF (Alcohol Tobacco and Firearms police) who are set up outside.

The exchanges between ATF agents John Goodman and Kevin Pollack are some of the best in the film. Quick paced witty Smith dialogue blends pretty well into the high tension of the scenes. My favorite line from these exchanges? The two are looking at a huge wrought iron cross up over the gate to the Cooper compound. Pollack: How much do you think one of those things costs? Goodman: In dollars or in common sense? Hey-oh! Good stuff. Pollack then gets shot in the face.

The ATF and the Five Points Church launch into a full scale firefight, and Goodman gets his orders to just bust in and kill everyone to make it as clean as possible; the Five Points Church is now considered a domestic terrorist cell. In a scene that must have been fun to direct, John Goodman shoots Jennifer Schwalbach’s character in the head. It must have been a slightly evil thought in Smith’s brain to have his wife killed by a fat man. The movie gets your hopes up as Jared is rescued from being strung up on the cross by Cheyenne (Kerry Bishé) in an effort to save the children from being massacred along with the family. In case you didn’t think this whole thing was FUBAR, the two kids are taken out by the ATF as they lay down their lone weapon (a handgun).

I’ll save you one spoiler, since the final sequence had me going “what the fuck” for a few seconds before the film explained what was going on. It wasn’t even a really good ‘what the fuck’, I was actually kind of annoyed and didn’t know where the film was going. I guess that was the intention though, so that’s cool.

The movie wraps up, the good guys win (as much as they could at that point, the boys are all dead, and 2 out of 3 of them were killed by the cops). There’s a fun scene with Patrick Fischler playing a jaded G-man at the end that was a nice close to the whole clusterfuck that we just witnessed.

I think getting away from the dick jokes was a good thing for Smith. Red State is a lot like the way Clerks felt like it was made by a guy who didn’t know what he was doing but was really passionate about doing it. I don’t think I would qualify him as “Master of Suspense Kevin Smith” but there’s a definite passion in this work that’s been missing from Smith films pretty much since Clerks.

Smith himself said that basically the only pure movies anyone ever makes are first films, since after that making movies is a job. The first ones are made out of passion. Somehow I think Smith tapped into that passion a little for Red State.

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