For his tenth film Kevin Smith has made a very promising debut. Most of Smith’s career has been spent doing a cross between comedy genius and just messing around with his friends and a camera. After a false start with last year’s Cop Out, Smith has finally jumped into big boy movies.

To really appreciate Red State you almost have to completely disregard everything Smith has done before, excellent though that previous work may be. Red State represents something completely new for Smith, and it’s not without its flaws, but he shows a promising career ahead of him.

Red State opens with three high school kids who have found what they believe to be easy access to sex through an internet site. They soon discover that they are not getting sex, they are getting kidnapped by a group of militant Christian fundamentalists.

The opening act suffers from poor exposition. Smith is normally very good at writing dialogue but he stumbles a bit here. Characters converse with the sole purpose of creating the background rather than developing the plot. Seeing more of this backwater town would have been far more effective than the discussion about the area that the locals have.

Once the three high schoolers arrive at the Christian camp however, things kick off. Smith has written a genuinely disturbing sermon for Michael Parks’ Preacher, Abin Cooper. The sermon serves as the core of the movie, unfortunately it goes on just a little too long, meaning it becomes difficult to focus on and its effect is numbed. Shortly afterwards however, the guns come out as the high school kids try to escape the compound and the feds close in from outside.

The introduction of the cops is clumsy at best but John Goodman is superb as Agent in Charge Joseph Keenan. When the shooting starts Smith deals with action very well and all additional dialogue is given an increased sense of tension as bullets rattle the surroundings.

The film contrasts different human failings. The religious group showing the massive problems with a human interpretation of faith while the cops display the problem of being obsessed with public image. This contrast is unfortunately made at the cost of the characters. Characters are forgotten about, written off or given pointless side plots as the action heightens.

To close the film Smith utilizes what may well be the most glaring example of Deus Ex Machina in cinematic history. Characters even talk about how the ending came out of nowhere with no relevance to anything.

Despite these failings Smith has tackled some difficult issues and come out standing, as the debut outing of his rebirth this definitely shows promise. It’s worth seeing, and Smith has once more become a rising star to watch.

Richard Duffy