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    Washington D.C. Runs Red!

    Tuesday night I had the opportunity to attend the screening/Q&A for Kevin Smith's new film Red State at the Warner Theater in Washington D.C. Smith is no stranger to Q&A shows. The trend started several years ago when he decided to take his show on the road and visit several universities across the nation as well as overseas. Countless appearances and 4 DVD's later he's decided to take the framework of these events and couple them with a roadshow of sorts.

    I'm sure that if you're reading this right now, you're no stranger to the press that Red State has received. The Westboro Baptist Church made it their mission to protest the screening of Red State at this years Sundance Film Festival. As usual it did not have the effect they had hoped as Smith gained more notice as he stood outside along with them holding up protests signs of his own. Some of which read "Thor Hates Straights" and "Dick Tastes Yummy".

    Smith has been traveling across the country screening his new film. As he decided to forgo the usual distribution model, the film has been presented in a traveling roadshow format. This has not only allowed Smith to connect with his fans on a more personal level but also allowed for a more intimate setting to see the film.

    The Film: -Spoilers ahead-

    The film starts off without a bang. Smith is fully aware of what his audience is expecting from him, therefore we are given a somewhat normal, opening. This is what I would define as "The quiet before the storm". Travis, played by Michael Angarano is seen riding in his mothers car as he is driven to school. They are held up in traffic because Abin Cooper, played to perfection by Michael Parks, has decided to protest the funeral of the victim of a hate crime. In the world we live in, unfortunately, this is not an uncommon sight to see on the news. While it is unsettling to see this in any form, our characters share glances that only hint at what is to come. Travis is joined by his two friends Jarod and Billy-Ray, played by Kyle Gallner and Nicholas Braun. The dialog between them disarms you into thinking that you're watching another View Askew flick. The set up is simple enough, Jarod has set up a meeting with an older annonomous woman to have sex and he wants his friends to come along as the woman appears to want more than one partner. The location happens to be near Cooper's Dell. While it sounds like it has a reputation, our three friends agree to make the road trip later that evening. On the way there we are treated to our first look at Sheriff Wynan, played by the always fantastic Stephen Root. I won't spoil his entrance, but it's probably one of the last real comfortable laughs you will have in this film. As our would be heroes drive up to an old trailer things begin to get a little odd. Something is not right from the looks of it and I found myself saying "TURN AROUND NOW". It's at this point in the film that everything goes completely sideways and we are introduced to the family that inhabits Cooper's Dell. The View Askew Universe is nowhere to be seen.

    The film first and foremost does not look anything like what we've come to expect from Kevin Smith. The charm and safety of his past is thoroughly washed away. What is left is what I can only describe as an exploitation film. I firmly believe it when I say that this film could have easily sat between Planet Terror and Death Proof when Grind-house was released. Smith made a comment after the film stating that this film is "QT by way of the Coen Brothers". That is exactly what you get honestly. The film is so tightly shot and edited that some may even come to think someone else was behind this. That's not a slight on Smith's film making, but rather an observation of the drastic change the flick takes. Despite what Smith and others have classified it, this is definitely not a horror film. It's what they have defined the flick because it simply can't be fit into one genre. This has exploitation elements, action elements, horror and for a brief moment you swear that it's about to get supernatural. The film moves at a frantic pace. Once we're in Cooper's Dell one screwed up event happens after another until we are presented with a firefight of epic proportions. Let me make it crystal clear. No one in this film is safe. The end of the film has been criticized by some for not taking the crazy route that it initially implies. To that I say BULLSHIT as it would destroy everything the film has built up. It would strip away the story and replace it with something cliche. It would also remove any point to the bait and switch it provides. It works because it's not what we expect. If those critics got what they had apparently wanted Smith might have lost me as a fan, but Smith knows his audience. That's why it works.

    The cast does a great job throughout the film and each actor brings exactly what we love about them to the table. The second John Goodman turned on a light to introduce his character,ATF Agent Joseph Kennan, he was immediately received with applause from the crowd. He's immediately seen as a father figure to so many in the crowd. His character, while conflicted, seems to be doing the right thing but there are really no heroes in Red State. Everyone's actions seem to come from the gut rather than thinking things through. Goodman is perhaps the most level headed but even his character slips. You find yourself rooting for characters and yet questioning their actions. Melissa Leo shows why she won her OSCAR as she ranges from loving mother to insane follower with blood on her mind. I can't help but also mention the small role of Betty Aberlin. Yes we have seen her in other Smith films such as Dogma but it's here where she completely throws Lady Aberlin out the window. The cast is littered with notable actors and it's hard to single out everyone for their performances but everyone does a fine job. It's interesting to hear Smith say that he wants Hit Somebody to feature many of his staple actors because he has done that to some extent here. Each shows up and you find yourself thinking "oh yeah they're from..."

    The breakneck pace at which the film travels does make it feel a bit short. The film is a very fast 97 minutes, however, that may have just been my being unprepared. I hope this gets a wide release of some kind or is released on video soon as repeat viewings will help. It's just so damn fast. Some may find the film as dialog heavy if not more so than Smith's other films. Personally I have never had a problem with Smith's dialog but if that has been your problem in the past it won't change here.

    There is a lot to say about this film and honestly I'm still processing it days later. It's certainly a fun ride, but it also makes you question your own thoughts and feelings about the type of people it portrays, good and bad.

    Red State is a grind-house film that deserves the treatment it's getting. Smith tweeted during the screening that the Warner Theater was the type of place he imagined for showing this film and he's right. The digital projection was great and the theater itself gave it all a sense of something bigger. I only hope that this starts a larger trend.

    I'll talk more about the film this weekend on our Crashing Hollywood podcast. I'll also be discussing the Q&A that followed the film. There is so much to tell so stay tuned.   

    Reader Comments (3)

    I seriously hope this gets an at least limited release, otherwise I doubt I'll get to see it in theaters. I'm a big Smith fan through and through regardless so even though all the reviews are pretty well dog shit, aside from Mac's ofcourse, I think I'd still check it out either way. Being that I know its more grind-house and Mac liked it makes me think it might be that much better too.

    03-17-2011 | Registered CommenterMitch Anderson

    It's going to open pretty wide, I think AMC is all set. Regal is probably next.

    But dude, I was at the DC screening, and I thought the film was DOPE. I saw it with two friends who hadn't listened to podcasts so they had NO idea what they were in, and they both loved it. Maybe the 7 minutes cut from Sundance really did make a difference, because there was nary a moment where I wasn't drawn in. (And the times that I wasn't, it was because my shoulder was cramping up)

    And I promise that I only had 1 beer (which was awesome that they served booze) before it.

    Recommend it highly, I definitely need to see it a few more times, but it ranks pretty high for me among Kevin's flicks. Maybe 2nd to Clerks 2.

    03-18-2011 | Unregistered CommenterBojac

    Yeah Its certainly a movie that you need to see more than once to really soak it all in. It moves so fast. I highly recommend the Warner Theater for anything man, it's a great place.

    03-20-2011 | Unregistered CommenterMac

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