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The Mass Media

The Mass Media

Kevin Smith Falls Short

Kevin Smith (“Zack and Miri Make a Porno”) gives us a rocky ride in his latest film “Red State” (2011), as he changes focus throughout, leaving the viewer not knowing what it’s really about.

Initially, the story is about three teenage boys who decide to meet with a thirty-eight-year-old prostitute. After arriving at her house, they are abducted and brought in cages to the fictional Five Points Church, a church that mirrors the real-life Westboro Baptist Church in its penchant for protesting at veterans’ funerals. There, the boys serve as examples of the devil’s work, and the killing begins. As the teenagers try to escape, the police become aware of gunfire in the compound of the Church, and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) end up coming in. Then follows a lengthy shootout that clearly refers to the one eight years ago between the ATF and a cult group in Waco, Texas.

Needless to say, after Smith’s movies about drugstore shenanigans (“Clerks”), having fun in a mall (“Mallrats”), and a father learning to connect with his daughter (“Jersey Girl”)-to name only a few of his apolitical comedies-“Red State” is both Smith’s most serious film and his most political film. But that isn’t to imply that it has anything to say, or that it is political at a deep level.

I consider myself to be a moderate Kevin Smith fan. I enjoyed the high-jinks of “Mallrats” and the oddball humor of his short-lived TV series “Clerks: The Animated Series,” but this film veers so far away from what he’s good at, namely being unconventional and making people laugh, that it fails on many levels. The shootout at the end is particularly tiresome as he relies almost exclusively on clichés. I’m guessing that Smith doesn’t have actual knowledge of the intricacies of a government standoff, and is therefore relying entirely on other movies for background information.

“Red State” is a cluttered, unfocused mess. At the end of the film all I felt was that I had just wasted my time.