Michael Parks as Abin Cooper

Michael Parks as Abin Cooper

Having just seen Red State, I can’t help but wonder why Kevin Smith has taken his time to make a film like this.

Essentially a satire on Fred Phelps and the Westboro Church, Red State tells the story of a fictional fanatical and violent religious sect called the Five Points Trinity Church, located in Middle America.

What starts off as a simple road movie featuring some horny teenagers, quickly turns into horrific tale of religion, belief and survival.

No review of Red State would be complete without a mention of Michael Parks’ performance as Abin Cooper. Equally charismatic and disturbing, he is possibly one of the best onscreen monsters since Anthony Hopkins decided to cook some liver with some fava beans.

Establishing his beliefs during a sermon of hate in front of an audience of followers and several kidnapped and restrained victims, Abin preaches with a sinister, yet charismatic tone – expressing his fear of Christ, his hate of the modern and liberal world.  During the sermon he proceeds to banter with his followers, joking with the kids and it is done in such a way that for a brief moment, you almost feel a bit of warmth towards the family.  It’s only when you hear the victims scream out for help that your realise the sheer terror of it all.

Kerry Bishe puts in a equably notable performance as Abin’s granddaughter Cheyenne – a character that cares for the children of the church and essentially acting as a bridge for the audience, allowing the viewer to empathise with the Cooper family in spite their sheer and blinkered stupidity.

Kerry Bishe as Cheyenne Cooper

Kerry Bishe as Cheyenne Cooper

Cheyenne is actually a great device in the overall plot, as there are relatively no good guys to root for in Red State. When the authorities arrive on scene (superb turns by John Goodman, Kevin Pollack and Stephen Root), they are equally complicit in the ongoing mess and arguably bring more damage than good.

Unfortunately, the films pace does suffer once the shoot out sequence starts, but thanks to some swift camera work and sharp editing, the overall experience still feels claustrophobic and gritty.

But the film really excels during the first half and when you hear the kidnapped victims scream out “I want my mum” and Abin utter lines like “you’re already dead sinner”, you can’t help but remind yourself that you are in actual fact watching a film directed by a man last tackled religious satire, with a stinky poo monster (Dogma).

It’s unlike anything he has done before and if Kevin Smith is true to his word and does retire after his next film, it’ll be a crying shame.

With Red State it appears that after nearly 20 years of dick and fart jokes, Kevin Smith has finally found his voice and delivered a film that is thoughtful, chilling, unpredictable, gritty and finely directed.

Extras include:

  • The Making of Red State
  • Smodcast Commentaries
  • Deleted Scenes
  • The Sundance Speech
  • A Conversation with Michael Parks
  • Poster Gallery
  • Trailers

About The Author

Colin lives in south west London. Looks like a hobbit and has been watching films ever since he saw Return of the Jedi at the age of 3. You can follow Colin on Twitter @obicolkenobi.

  • Glad you enjoyed the review.  I find it interesting how this film has split audiences right down the middle.  Someone was saying to me yesterday that it they found the first half dull and enjoyed the second half more, the complete opposite of my opinion.  Each to their own I guess. 🙂

  • I am a Kevin Smith fan and though the movie had some powerful parts, I just found it bland. Like you said no characters to really like. Even though Michael Parks portrayal of Abin Cooper is a worthy performance, I felt it slowed down the movie with the long dialogue of the sermon. I know it establishes who he is but damn if I want to here a sermon I will go to church. I like your review.