Red State (2011)
I rarely find much reason to commend films as bleak and unrewarding as Kevin Smith's latest outing Red State, but the difference is that this isn't a misanthropic film in any way. It's merely a stinging, uncompromising social criticism with a lot to discuss. After we have been introduced to three recognizable teenagers who are cruising internet chat rooms for casual sexual relations, Smith throws us headlong into an extremely conservative church with a serious grudge against homosexuals, and while we are being presented to the clockworks of this partly deranged, partly cozy church, and their charismatic pastor Abin Cooper (played with fantastic extravaganza by Michael Parks), our three teenage protagonists must fight for their lives in order to not be mistakenly slaughtered for being gay. And in the meantime, local law enforcers and federal agents gather up outside to take care of the situation in their own manner.
Although Red State is probably not for everyone, it addresses issues which should be considered by everyone. One is the dangers of closed, isolated religious fanatic groups; another is the dangers of some American federal law enforcement agencies, which Smith claims are borderline totalitarian. Red State is one of this year's edgiest films, and it's directed with such urgency that its relentless nature seems necessary; something we need to experience in order to get the message. Smith's perceptive script and unorthodox turning points makes this a film full of artistic merit, albeit not exactly enjoyable entertainment, and the director also gets quality performances from his entire cast - especially Melissa Leo (not surprisingly), John Goodman (in an accomplished non-comedic part) and the aforementioned outstanding Parks. Look for veteran Kevin Pollak in a hilarious cameo.