I don’t know what inspired me, but I suddenly had a desire to finally see this cult favourite slacker comedy from the nineties. Kevin Smith’s brand of pop-culture and crude comedy has garnered him a healthy fan base with hits such as Mallrats and Jay & Silent Bob Strike Back as well as more serious efforts like Red State and Dogma. Yet I was a bit late to the party and never got around to this popular debut until today.
Randal and Dante are two bored clerks at a convenience store who spend their time discussing such topics as hermaphrodite porn, the ending to Return of the Jedi or which woman Randal should be dating from the two in his life. Meanwhile outside local small time drug dealer Jay struts his potty-mouthed stuff with best bud Silent Bob. This is funny, low-rent entertainment, shot in grainy black and white and with many funny lines and oddball characters (the guy checking the eggs, the chewing gum salesman…) but it’s not a comedy for the easily offended .. it gets very crude at time (…People say crazy shit during sex. One time I called this girl “Mom.”). Yet if you like Kevin Smith’s movies, you’ll certainly find much to enjoy here and the characters, especially Dante are well written and mostly realistic, even if some events stretch plausibility (the dead guy?).
A cult favourite it may be, and as the first movie by a director, quite daring – but the sheer throwaway nature of it’s humour and concept stops it from being the classic some may consider it to be.
When most people think of the name Kevin Smith, they immediately conjure up images of slacker comedies like Mallrats and Clerks and characters like Silent Bob. Yet he has also turned his hand to somewhat deeper themes in the likes of Dogma and Chasing Amy. With that being said, he has never really been known for horror or thrillers – until now.
This follows the story of three friends who answer an add-on website to hook up with a woman for sex. These hormonal guys think it’s their ticket to getting laid, and are soon setting off to meet the woman at her current residence – a trailer. Yet all is not as it seems, and before long the guys have been drugged and become the hostages of a local, notorious religious cult, lead by unhinged preacher Abin Cooper (the brilliant Michael Parks). At the same time, a Sheriff being blackmailed by the preacher due to some questionable nocturnal activities, calls in a local special agent (John Goodman) to lay siege to the cult.
This movie borrows heavily from real life cult situations like that of The Manson Family and Waco, and for me was totally gripping. The three teens may not have a personality between them, and their plight is somewhat self-inflicted, but the cult and their beliefs was believably scary and unpredictable – meaning I was always wondering what was going to happen next. Several times the movie surprised me, and some deaths really knocked me back in my seat. For the subject, I don’t think Kevin Smith offered any new insights, and just why the cult did what they did wasn’t very clear. Smith has previously explored controversial subject matter, and like his earlier Dogma, this touches on subjects that some may find questionable. Sadly there isn’t the depth to really get to the point on any of it, turning more into an action movie half way through, despite a promising opening. Yet with a powerful, creepy performance from Michael Parks, who also stood out in movies like From Dusk Till Dawn and Kill Bill, and a great turn from Goodman, who is always a joy – this was still entertaining. Also, with some interesting nods to 9/11 and how America has changed in the wake of terrorism, I was also left with plenty to think about.
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