When Kevin Smith’s latest film, “Red State,” premiered at the Sundance Film Festival on Sunday night, viewers were expecting several things. First and foremost, they were expecting a horror film, which many critics said wasn’t what was produced at all. Then they were expecting to see Smith auction off his film, as he has been promising for months, but that did not happen either.
Instead, Smith sold himself the film for $20 and announced he would be distributing it with his production company, SModcast, and would take the film and its stars on a month-long tour around the country, advertised only by word of mouth. The tickets will run somewhere around $60 and will go on sale Friday, January 28. Screenings will start at Radio City Music Hall in New York City on March 5, with a total of 13 cities on the tour. After that, Smith plans on showing the film in theaters starting October 19 (the 17th anniversary of the release of “Clerks”).
As if that weren’t enough news about the director, Smith then went on to say that his next film, “Hit Somebody,” will be the last film he ever directs.
Judging from the response “Red State” had with critics, it is clear that Smith knew he was going to be premiering a divisive film. Numerous reviews have already hit the Internet since the film was screened Sunday night, and most critics thought Smith’s film was ambitious if poorly delivered. James Rocchi of the Playlist wrote, ” ’Red State’ goes from ’Psycho’ to Westboro to Waco, changing points-of-view and tone with an abandon some will find invigorating and others will find irritating. I’m glad Kevin Smith wants to make movies that aren’t comedies; it’s too bad he felt he had to make all of them at once.”
Cinematical reviewer Erik Davis agreed, writing, “The problem with ’Red State,’ though, is that all the politics, preaching and gotta-slide-them-in-there sex jokes sort of overwhelm the movie to the point that it feels scattered and a little unfocused. Not that there aren’t moments that completely paralyze you, but unfortunately those moments become hard to hear and recognize over all the loud, obnoxious gunfire.”
Some critics, like The Hollywood Reporter’s Todd McCarthy, were more receptive to the film than others. McCarthy suggested that fans will appreciate “Smith’s irrepressible irreverence, freewheeling subversion and tweaking of movie genre expectations” and felt that his “aggressively profane script” worked when it used “startling twists on scare film conventions while also taking the U.S. government to task for its simplistic use of terrorist threats as an excuse to do anything it wants.”
But other critics, like HitFix’s Drew McWeeny, took Smith’s film and subsequent “purchase” after the screening as a direct insult. McWeeny wrote, “I truly believe ’Red State’ the movie is a failure on almost every level,” adding that to him it felt as if “Smith doesn’t even seem to try.” He also felt that Smith had set himself up so that if a reviewer dislikes his film, he’ll just attribute it to the failure of movie critics . He added that Smith’s fans would show up in flocks to see the film anyway despite (or perhaps in spite of) what critics say, and that’s precisely what Smith is banking on.
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