20 September 2011 | TheExpatriate700
Nice Shot but No Cigar, Mr. Smith
Red State represents Kevin Smith's attempt to direct a horror movie / thriller, focusing on a Phelps-like family of violent religious fanatics. It follows three male college students entrapped by the religious fanatics via an internet relationship site. Although the film features some good characterization and acting by Michael Parks and Melissa Leo, dubious pacing, weak writing, and the lack of a good protagonist undermine it.
Red State suffers from an inability to retain a consistent tone, as it shifts from a buddy comedy to a disturbing horror film to an action movie, and then back to some rather lame laughs. Given that Smith's stated goal was to direct a horror movie, this is a serious flaw. There are only two scenes in the film that could truly qualify as frightening, and they are both undermined by lousy pacing, as too much time is spent watching the main villain talk.
Furthermore, we are never given a clear character to root for,as the film's attention shifts too frequently for anyone other than the villains to stand out. The film divides its attention between the three captives so evenly that none really becomes the lead. (It doesn't help that they are played by unexceptional actors.) The film then shifts to a federal agent played by John Goodman, yet the film can't seem to make up its mind whether he is supposed to be a protagonist or an antagonist.
In the end, only the two main villains played by Michael Parks and Melissa Leo really stand out as interesting characters. Parks gives the lead minister / fanatic a charismatic edge, making it clear why people would follow someone so obviously insane. Leo isn't given as much to work with, but still makes her character compelling. Their performances, along with a somewhat amusing plot twist near the end, are the only things keeping the film from a lower score.