Red State Review

The final 30-minutes of action portrayed in Red State rank amongst the years best, not because of the gunfight itself, but its meaning. An anti-gay, doomsday-believing religious cult sits almost casually as they fire off rounds towards approaching ATF agents. Both sides are disturbingly trigger happy, and the fate of innocent children seems decided by all.

Even victims, teenagers lured with the promise of a little sexual deviance, are stuck in the cross-fire. After building up the Westboro Baptist Church look-a-likes (just one step higher on the crazy scale), Red State’s ending begins to question what’s right and wrong, the line that was moments ago clear, severed by some of Kevin Smith’s best work.

All is not well in Red State though, those three teens clearly on the lower rung of the intelligence ladder, one unable to open a simple cage lock to escape, another bonded by plastic wrappings on his hands and feet. He must have forgot seconds ago he tore the body wrap using a sharp edge.

Clunky dialogue earlier also dilutes what are wisely mixed messages, an introductory piece of exposition involving a teacher overstating the facts of the case, the issue repeated with a mid-morning phone call to John Goodman. Information like this is rarely necessary, basics covered by new reports and the preacher of the Cooper’s clan.

You could also belittle the ending dialogue, wrapping up tragedy in such a clear, concise manner; it’s enough to bang your head against a hard object. So intensely powerful was the film mere minutes before, why Smith chose such a convenient wrap-up is a mystery.

This isn’t a film that just gives up and dies though, John Goodman producing a closing speech with enough merit to solidify this one as a success, even with the muck ups. Certainly, the emotional ferocity Red State is capable of, the brilliant performances of Michael Parks and Melissa Leo, and fierce directorial work are plentiful merits.

Movie ★★★★☆ 

Smith shot his independently produced flick digitally, utilizing the Red One MX and some shots with the Canon 7D. Here, the Red One performs admirably, producing an image that is crisp, natural, and free of the general digital imperfections. Noise is non-existent, and the black levels are superior to the vast majority of digitally-captured movies as of late.

Close-ups resolve extensive high-fidelity detail, and even medium shots will showcase some fine delineation. Light is used effectively to keep focus squarely on these performances, and in return, the benefits of HD become clear. There are a handful of exteriors, those extensive in their definition as well.

Lionsgate’s AVC encode shows no signs of struggle, a mild number of chase scenes shot with a handheld flair, bouncing extensively without any signs of image break-up. Much of the shoot-out is handled with rapid cuts, shaky cam, and zooms, again the encode holding up against a heavy assault from the source material.

Red State doesn’t look tinkered with too much, color correction adding a minimal level of saturation. Flesh tones maintain their proper state, primaries have a natural luster, and lighting isn’t overly garish. Aside from the material, it’s a pleasant watch.

Video ★★★★☆ 

It is of course the gunfire that sells this DTS-HD mix, a vivid and aggressive low-end catapulting the bass into superstar status. Each shot from the various assault rifles peppers the sub with a brutal thump, the highs pounded into submission. There’s not much in the way of balance, but this is clearly a mix gunning (no pun intended, although it is kind of funny) for a specific sound. What it’s doing with the thunderous jolts is placing the viewer in a chaotic, tense scenario, totally sold by the audio.

Surrounds, of course, kick in too, bullets pinging off the various ATF vehicles or shattering windows. It’s ambiance in a situation no one wants to be in. Eventually, there’s a loud instrument taking over the soundfield (stating what is spoiler-y), blaring enough that it creates a brutal, satisfying rumble and swells to clearly reach the rears. Fantastic work for a relatively low budget outing.

Audio ★★★★☆ 

Kevin Smith goes all out for this disc in terms of bonuses, kicking off with a two-part making-of that runs near the 45-minute mark. Note that Smith introduces every feature here, taking up a couple of minutes that are worth watching. Three deleted scenes just fall shy of the 16-minute marker. Included there is an ending used at Sundance that was eventually trimmed down.

A 35-minute speech Smith gave at the prolific film festival is here in its entirety, all 35-minutes worth. Michael Parks is interviewed at length about the role and his approach in the next item within the bonus menu. The holy grail of sorts are seven podcasts that can be listened to over the movie. They’re from a series Kevin Smith did, and combined, they break the seven hour mark. Awesome.

If you still need more, you can check out a poster gallery and some trailers.

Extras ★★★★★