Red State

Viewed – 23 January 2012  Pay-per-view

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.

Verdict:  3 /5

Kill Bill Vol.1 sword fight in colour!

For those who can’t be bothered importing the Japanese limited edition box set of Kill Bill Vol.1 which boasts the famed ‘House of blue leaves’ sword fight in full colour (for those that don’t know, all other releases of Kill Bill feature the scene in black ‘n’ white…for I don’t know what reason).  Here’s what you have been missing:

Oh Tarantino, where art thou?

I watched Kill Bill: Vol.2 on television last night, and although I enjoyed it to the point I didn’t go channel surfing like I normally do when I watch TV late at night by myself…it’s still seriously flawed.  I haven’t seen it since eagerly cueing up at my local multiplex several years ago after absolutely adoring Kill Bill Vol.1

Yet Quentin Tarantino has to be one of the most hit and miss directors to ever reach mainstream stardom, and although Pulp Fiction remains my all time favourite movie, everything else he has done (Kill Bill Vol.1 aside) is patchy as hell.  Ok, Jackie Brown had a good story, but thats more down to Elmore Leonard than anyone else, and its still desperately in need of an editor, as its over-long and stylised when it needs no heavy style, and the characters are mostly unlikable…including Samuel L. Jackson’s small time arms dealer.  Tutt tutt.  Then look at Kill Bill Vol.2, following up Tarantino’s superb return to form after ‘Brown and is once again over-long, peppered with ridiculous, unintentionally funny dialogue and an ending that pretty much destroys the whole point of the movie.  Grr.

Then look to his latest, Death Proof, a poorly acted, ridiculously dialogued movie with a promising, scary first half and a stupid second half.  Now what Tarantino has learnt over the years is film technique – he can frame a shot and use camera work and editing well when given the right material – and he can do action as good as the best of ’em, but he remains self-indulgent and a bit of a geek, needing as I have said once before on this site, to quit wallowing in his boyhood fantasies, ditch the foot fetishes, the comic book, pop-culture referrences and take a leaf out of Paul Thomas Anderson’s book (Magnolia, Boogie Nights, There Will Be Blood) and start making real movies.

Come on Quentin, you have the ability – you can do it…and finally get that credibility that the likes of Scorsese and Spielberg have had for decades!  Somehow I don’t see Inglorious Bastards doing it.