Outspoken filmmaker Kevin Smith hit a creative and commercial low with his last studio-backed production, the Bruce Willis-starring flop Cop Out, but before that film was even released Smith had shifted focus to this long-gestating personal project. Red State defies categorisation, but could, for some of its lean running time, be described as a political horror movie. Having independently raised funds, Smith shot the film entirely on digital cameras to allow for the quickest possible turnaround. The result is an uneven and often unpleasant film that leaves a bitter aftertaste, but despite its flaws suggests Smith has rediscovered his creative mojo, and is not beyond challenging himself yet.

The film begins with a class teacher in the unspecified titular state decrying the homophobic protests of a local fundamentalist Christian church. We soon see first-hand the horrific practices of this church, led by

charismatic pastor Abin Cooper (Michael Parks, giving a creepily authentic performance), as three teenage boys get more than they bargained for after responding to an internet post seemingly offering no-strings attached sex. Smith refashions the traditional backwoods horror movie with Christian fundamentalists as the monsters, and while subtlety is clearly not on his agenda, this is an effective and scary first half hour, expertly put together and shorn of any of Smith’s usual wisecracking comedy. But the introduction of FBI agent Joe Keenan (John Goodman) signals a distinct change in tone, and Smith abandons horror in favour of an attempt at more nuanced political drama. While his ambition is admirable, Smith’s characters with the notable exception of Keenan are unsympathetic caricatures, and feel too much like convenient mouthpieces for the issues he wants to tackle. An inspired and bizarre final twist almost works, until Smith pulls the rug and backtracks for a West Wing-lite philosophising conclusion. (Paul Gallagher) General release from Fri 30 Sep.


The underdog fighter with family issues is back in a big way this year. First came David O Russell’s Oscar-winner The Fighter, and now writer/director Gavin O’Connor (Pride and Glory) delivers his challenger, a two-hour-plus, testosterone- rammed saga that boasts three very good performances but runs out of narrative steam long before the last dragged-out punch is thrown. Warrior begins as a downbeat character drama, and

O’Connor’s set-up is solid. Tom Hardy’s hulking and withdrawn Tommy turns up on the doorstep of his reformed alcoholic dad, Paddy (Nick Nolte), looking for training. Tommy could have been a mixed martial-arts contender, and he wants to be one again. Meanwhile, other estranged brother Brendan (Joel Edgerton) is running out of money, and is considering returning to the fights too. No prizes for guessing how the brothers will end up literally reconnecting with each other. Nolte is at his grizzly best, but the film devolves into seemingly endless brutal fight scenes, ultimately offering a dubious ‘violence solves all’ message that makes no sense and, ironically, creates little impact. (Paul Gallagher) General release from Fri 23 Sep.

If you thought that Ted Danson had delivered career-remoulding performances as ‘himself’ in Curb Your Enthusiasm, you should check out the dazzle he brings to the first series of Bored to Death (Warner ●●●●●). Jonathan Ames’ Brooklyn-set comedy stars Jason Schwartzman as a struggling writer called Jonathan Ames (see where this is going yet?) who stumbles upon a new career as a private detective. Hindered by his own neuroses and addictions, he is initially hopeless but begins to grow into the beige mac and the PI role, aided and abetted by magazine publisher George (Danson, brilliant) and his slothful comics illustrator buddy Ray (Zach Galifianakas, imperious). It’s never quite as hilarious as it wants to be, but the lives of these three divergent losers are nevertheless compellingly watchable.

Compelling and watchable also fits the bill for America’s version of The Killing (Fox ●●●●●) in which Sarah Lund becomes the similarly starch and woolly-attired Sarah Linden (Mireille Enos) who investigates the beating and drowning of a 17-year-old girl amid a flood of red herrings. Was it the Muslim teacher? What about the playboy billionaire with the penchant for young swimmers in his mansion? There will be few who favour this over the original Danish version but judging by the American forums, even the show’s fans were hacked off by the cliffhanger finale.

Quite how Weeds (Lionsgate ●●●●●) has

made it to seven series is a mystery of Lord Lucan/Shergar proportions. The fifth is out now on DVD and features an array of irritating creations and appalling stereotypes amid dreadfully dull storylines. In the central role of the entrepreneurial marijuana mum, Mary-Louise Parker is mildly less annoying than she was in The West Wing. That’s not a recommendation.

Central casting has never been a problem with In Treatment (Warner ●●●●●). Gabriel Byrne smoulders and rages through a terrific second season as Dr Paul Weston who tries to come to terms with his own troubled history while fending off the demons of his patients (this time around he has an overweight young boy, a former lover and a burnt-out CEO on his couch).

It will be intriguing to see how the third series fares given that it’ll be the first batch which isn’t based directly on the original Israeli scripts for BeTipul. Or perhaps there’s a clue already there with the announcement that the show would only continue in a ‘different format’. Ditch Paul Weston and my sessions In Treatment will be over. (Brian Donaldson)

22 Sep–20 Oct 2011 THE LIST 65