Red State:The Enemy Within
-Agent Joseph Keenan
Earlier this week I had the opportunity to watch Kevin Smith’s new movie Red State and have to say that is an audacious exercise in film-making unlike anything that I have ever seen before. Smith, more famous for his comedic talents seen in movies like the cult classic Clerks and the religious satire Dogma boldly goes straight for the jugular in this scathing work of truly important social commentary. With America having been flipped fascist, largely through the work of Christian zealots whose gospel bears scant resemblance of the teachings of Jesus Christ far too little serious attention is given to the dangerous and hateful enemy within. The type of venomous, intolerant, anti-intellectual and when it comes down to it just plain anti-American Evangelical Christianity that wants to remake society into a theocratic militarized dictatorship to enforce their brutal vision of utopia on all who are different from them is horrifying and dangerous. This sort of mutated Christianity has metastasized throughout America like a ravenous cancer or in a red state context, an alien strain of kudzu and has played no small part in the destruction of our once functional but now failed political system. Red State does the unthinkable in post 9/11 America by calling a spade a spade regarding the menace of Christian extremism.
The movie is set in an unidentified part of heartland America, likely a state that is solidly Republican where the mundane suburban communities contain the truly monstrous, the good Germans and little Eichmanns of this rotting and adrift empire. Innocuous homes with finely kept lawns similar to where religious fanatic Michele Bachmann’s hero John Wayne Gacy once lived and brutally murdered gay young men all while appearing to be outwardly normal. The movie particularly focuses on the savage homophobia, scapegoating and desire to eradicate gay people from the world looked down upon by a wrathful and merciless God. The plot begins when three horny teenagers named Travis, Jared and Billy Ray surfing the sex sites on the internet via their smart phone set up an arrangement to meet an older woman who has promised to take on all three of them. The boys borrow one of their parents’ car and head off to fictional Cooper’s Dell in search of that nasty sort of sexual debauchery that only a youngster with little maturity and a dick as hard as Chinese arithmetic can truly understand. Making jokes along the way to the encounter about how it’s going to be like fucking their mothers the boys sideswipe a vehicle where the local sheriff, Sheriff Wynan is engaged in sex with another man and flee the scene of the accident.
Travis, Jared and Billy Ray then roll up in front of a trailer where the woman who had solicited the encounter, Sarah Cooper who is played by Melissa Leo (who just won the Oscar as Best Supporting Actress for her tour de force role as the conniving mother in The Fighter) greets them. The boys are offered beer by Sarah who insists that they drink before having sex. As the three get undressed they discover that the beer has been drugged and all pass out. When they awaken they are in a chapel with a handful of worshippers although not sitting in pews, Jared is in a cloth covered cage being carried into the room while the other two are bound in a crawlspace below the pulpit. To his horror they realize that they are captives of the virulently anti-gay, militant pastor Abin Cooper who played by Michael Parks, former star of the 1960s television series Then Came Bronson. Parks performance, loosely based on the notorious Reverend Fred Phelps of the Westboro Baptist Church is mesmerizing and while due to the subject matter which would scramble hordes of thuggish Christian activists like squadrons of S.A. brownshirts he will sadly not receive the recognition that he is deserving of for this role. Parks is not the hellfire and brimstone type, preaching politics from their taxpayer subsidized den of iniquity churches, he is actually soft-spoken but the demeanor masks a dark fanaticism that is the one most dangerous trait of the true believers, an incandescent inner psychotic fervor. This is an Oscar winning caliber type of performance by Mr. Parks, a career keystone yet Red State will likely be ignored by the cowardly media and corrupt and morally debased Hollywood kingmakers.
Keenan calls to request backup and to inform his superior officers that the situation has escalated into a shoot out. He is asked about media and gives the response that due to the remoteness of the compound that media is not a factor. Keenan is then given the order to storm the complex and kill all within to which he pleads that there are kids inside before asking for something in writing to protect himself and his field office before he agrees to execute the order. In the next scene, Keenan is in a stable when he informs one of his agents that the situation has been “reclassified” and that they are going to “take down this domestic terrorist cell.” As the agent pleads with him for a measured response Keenan reads an email from his cellphone. The email is an official statement:
Our investigation of the Five Points Church in Cooper’s Dell has uncovered an extremely hostile domestic terrorist cell, heavily armed with intentions of bombing a local shopping mall this morning. When we came with arrest warrants they opened fire on us, killing the assistant special agent in charge, giving us no choice but to take the premises with deadly force. In the resulting firefight all suspects were killed.
The young agent named Harry is distraught and argues with Keenan that there are children inside and that they are going to be the “bad guys” in this situation but is rebuffed coldly. Keenan says “I got eighteen years in, I’m not telling my wife she’s got to clip coupons till we’re dead because I can’t follow a simple order, shitty as that order is…and we’re not talking about Gandhi here”. Harry struggles with the order and then passes it on. As Cheyenne has gone outside to plead with the agents for mercy due to the children an agent produces a throwaway weapon, fires shots and gives it to her, his intent is obviously to gun her down in cold blood as soon as she takes it but while he is distracted and struggling with the girl Sarah walks up behind him and shoots him in the back of the head. Back inside, Cheyenne frees Jared who is bound to the cross and implores him to go with her to the agents to tell the real story, that the terrorist threat was bogus and that they could both stop the slaughter. Sarah finds the two in a room and a struggle ensues where by accident Cheyenne shoots her own mother. Her and Jared then run from the building to confront Keenan imploring him to keep the ATF men from killing the children but she is then shot in the head at point blank range by agent Harry who also guns down Jared. He is just following orders.
Red State is brilliant in it’s commentary, not only for bringing attention the the seriously dangerous form of violent Christianity that has become so prevalent since the 1980’s and the militia types that are drawn to it but also in that it criticizes the heavy handed actions of the government. The “terrorist” attacks of 9/11 and the transformation of the United States into a fascist police state where posse comitatus and habeas corpus have been junked have enabled local police and governments to become militarized. The use of this power, not constrained by any sort of traditional law will become more commonplace as the ongoing economic collapse worsens and as the people take to the streets in protest. The police are already using violence to put down Occupy movement demonstrations that are a real grass roots uprising unlike the phony right-wing Tea Party and if they continue to grow they will represent a threat to the status quo that absolutely will not be tolerated. Serious civil unrest is coming to America very soon, one need only to look at the rest of the world and the growing backlash against vampire capitalism. The ruling class is not going to wait much longer before loosing the government on the protests which will only worsen the situation as the society begins to unravel. The wild card are the Christian fanatics, who truly harbor terrorist intent and are like Pastor Cooper’s clan, armed to the teeth and ready to rumble. They will be used by the establishment as shock troops when the time comes and they will be backed by government thugs as they defend the existing order. Judgment day is getting closer although not in any biblical sense and be assured that there will be blood.
I would strongly recommend Red State to all readers, this is not a movie that is going to be promoted by anything other than word of mouth, heretical that it is to the powerful and those that they depend upon to maintain their blessed order.