Does this count as Sunday Mass?
Flik (Jules Brown) is 13-year-old, spoiled-brat who is forced to live with his grand-daddy (Clarke Peters) for a whole Summer. However, Flik isn’t doing exactly what he dreamed of this Summer when he’s with his Grandfather Enoch, who just so happens to be a pastor and trying to get Flik back in the eyes of God.
After giving us two, relatitvely-solid mainstream movies (Inside Man, Miracle at St. Anna), Spike Lee finally returns to his roots, in more ways than one. Firstly, he’s going back to indie-filmmaking which he seems to have abandoned for the longest time, and secondly, he’s back to filming in his native Brooklyn, where it just so happens that Mookie is still delivering pizza’s for Sal. However, cool your jets while you still can, people, because even though Mookie is in this flick and shows-up for about 3 minutes, this is nowhere near a Do the Right Thing sequel, or even a Do the Right Thing-caliber movie. Heck, it’s not even a Spike Lee-caliber movie, if we’re not including She Hate Me.
In the past, Lee has been attacked for being too self-indulgent with his material and not knowing how to separate style from substance, and in the past, I have stood-up for him and said, “nay”, to those attackers but here, he makes me look like a fool. The usual trademarks that we see with a Lee flick are here, however, there’s no driving-narrative to really help it out. Instead, there’s just a bunch of scenes where kids are being kids, and a crap-load of sermons about God. And for all of you people out there who were pissed about Michael Parks’ over-long sermon in Red State, don’t worry, it’s even worse here as I would say about 30 minutes of this flick is probably dedicated to these preaches about everything from God, technology, being black, being poor, being white, Obama, and so on and so forth.
As usual, the points that Lee bring are up are reasonable and very smart, considering that this is a guy who has a big brain and a very big mouth, but they aren’t done well-enough here to be considered in your mind. Instead, all of the smart views, points, general ideas Lee has in his head and tries to get out on-screen for all of us to see and get into our minds, just fall-flat on the ground as if somewhere after the 4-year hiatus from filmmaking Lee has taken, he lost his sense of telling an important issue, with an important story. In ways, this doesn’t really feel like a Lee flick because it’s almost as if the guy just lost his skill and if that is the case, then damn. It’s disappointing to see a filmmaker of these heights just get so high up there, in terms of knowing what he’s doing, how to do it, and master his craft, to just fall-apart right in front of our eyes. You can talk as much shite on Tarantino as much as you’d like to, Spike, but the fact is: he’s making better films than yo ass.
The film runs a very long 130 minutes (that actually feels twice as long) and for about the hour-and-45-minutes, I was bored stiff-less. However, the last 20 minutes or so of the flick came-around and automatically, I found myself alive and interested in what Lee was bringing to the table. Without giving too much away, there’s a curve-ball that Lee throws at us that shows us more about Enoch than we originally thought and really livens up the story and gives us a new-perspective on all that we see. Yeah, it could be viewed at as a cheap-way for Lee to make a conventional-story, seem less conventional and more thought-provoking, but at the same time, it didn’t matter to me because it kept my interest, almost all the way until the ending, and then everything fell apart once again. But hey, those 20 minutes still kept me watching and that’s a hell of a lot more than I can say about the rest of the flick.
Everything in this flick may suffer, big-time, but the only person who really gives it his all and actually comes out on-top is Clarke Peters as Da Good Bishop Enoch. There is a lot about this character that could be terribly annoying and terribly one-sided, as he spends almost half-of-the-film just constantly yelling and preaching to people about how they need to get “the big man” in their lives, but Peters shows more effort than that. Peters makes this guy seem very nice, very comforting, and like a relatively normal guy that just so happens to be so high-strung on the G-O-D, that is is a rather off-putting, to say the least. Still, once this twist by the end is actually shown to us and comes into our minds, Peters handles the material very-well and gives us a glimpse at a real man, with real problems, and real, deep, dark secrets that can come out at any time. Peters is definitely the flame that keeps this fire moving and without this dude, doing his own thing, the flick would have definitely been a lot worse and painful to watch.
The reason I say that, is because when the flick isn’t focusing on Peters and all of his sermons, it’s about the forming of love between the two kids in this movie, played by youngsters Toni Lysaith and Jlues Brown. Now, as much as I hate to get on kids’ case about how they can’t and handle the material that’s thrown at them, I still can’t get past the fact that in this movie, where half of the film/story revolves around them, Lee actually gave the “okay” on some of these final-cuts, because being a director that knows how to direct actors and give some of the best performances of their careers, this is almost an embarrassment Seriously, these kids are drop-dead terrible and the stuff they say to each other not only doesn’t feel genuine, but seems like Lee has lost his touch and should have just stuck with Nate Parker and the gang of Bloods that he lead. To be honest, and I hate to say this, but his performance, his character, and his gang, would have probably been a lot more of an interesting story to focus on, and probably a better-road for Lee to go down considering the guy is one of the best at writing stories for them. However, when it comes to kids, I think he’s got to stay away, as dirty as that may sound.
Consensus: It’s great to see Spike Lee finally back in-front of and behind-the-camera, but Red Hook Summer is not the type of flick that I was imagining all that glee coming from. It’s long, poorly-scripted, boring, and to be honest, only good and worth a recommendation for the last 20 minutes where a phenomenal performance from Clarke Peters, gets better and better by each scene.
It’s like ‘Dogma’, with a lot of guns.
Three horny teens go off for a one-night stand with a chick (Melissa Leo) that they think will get it on with them all at the same time. However, they end up being kidnapped into a little freak-show for these crazy Jesus-people that don’t like gay people. The teens soon try to find a way out of the church as the local police force comes in to also raise some hell.
Kevin Smith is a favorite of mine and almost all of his films, except ‘Cop Out‘, all have made me happy and enjoy the hell out of myself. I know a lot of people out there in the world hate this dude but for some reason, he always strikes a cord with me. That’s why I’m so glad to see it when he does something that is totally different from anything else he usually does and at least tries to branch out a bit more than what we have seen from him.
The premise for this film is awesome because it’s a horror film about things that are out there, rather than just ghosts caught on film, or dudes named Freddy, Michael Myers, and Jason running around killing teens. The film is obviously based on the crazy Westboro Baptist Church people, lead by Fred Phelps, who the people that follow this church actually look up to him as if he was the big G.O.D. himself. I like this concept because I hate these people and anytime somebody wants to show them in a bad light and practically get effed up every second, is something I want to see and stand behind. Hey, I know it sounds vicious but just type these people up on YouTube and you’ll see what assholes they really are.
What Smith does here, unlike any other film he’s done, is add an extra-layer of detail to not only his script but also his direction. Seeing that his only action film is actually the crap I mentioned early, it’s highly impressive how he is able to bring a lot of tension and grittiness to the screen to give you this feel of just terrible things are going to and will happen. This is in-your-face gritty with plenty of people getting shot, and sometimes you don’t know who will so you have that whole unpredictability to it as well that Smith is able to bring out well.
When it comes to his script, this is obviously a Smith film but it still has many different elements that can make a lot of people have their heads scratching by the end of the film, when they actually see who wrote and directed this. There is a real dark and sinister side to this film with barely any comedy or toilet humor, which is what I usually love about Smith films but here it was a pretty good way of focusing on actually creating tension and an atmosphere.
However, I do think that this film had its fair share of problems that took away from my overall experience. I feel like Smith does a lot of preaching here that at first seems legit, then it just becomes something of an annoyance where I actually wanted the story to move forward rather than just showing me all of these crazy Jesus people freaks, preaching and hollering about the same old shit every time. I get the fact that Smith is trying to get his point across, but when you have a speech that lasts about 13 minutes talking just to get a point across, it’s not just torture for the people in the film but for those who are actually watching it as well.
In terms of the horror department, I also felt like something was missing from it to actually make it scary. Take it for granted though, this is not your typical horror film so obviously we aren’t going to be getting jump-scares every five seconds, but too much of it felt like people just shooting each other without any real scares or horror to back it up. Don’t get me wrong, I like it when people that I actually dislike so much before I even get to know them get shot up left-and-right, but there were times when even that was gone and there was nothing to really keep it compelling.
Also, why the hell did that random-ass timestamp come up out of nowhere, for no reason whatsoever, and then never come back again? Maybe it was just another one of Smith’s crazy and weird things he just wanted to do for fun.
The cast is pretty impressive considering Smith doesn’t use anybody from any of his previous films, even though I wouldn’t have minded seeing Jason Mewes or even Jason Lee for that matter. John Goodman is good and pretty aggressive as Joseph Kennan, the police dude in charge who has a very good scene by the end of the film; Melissa Leo is one-note as Sara Cooper, but she’s still an easily-hated character from the start; and Michael Parks is very evil and devilish as Abin Cooper, the man behind this church. Everybody’s good here but it’s just one of those cases where it’s more of the director’s show than the people themselves.
Consensus: Red State has a great premise to work off of, a good direction from Smith, and a script that is more than just dirty jokes that he usually has in all of his films, but there are many times where it loses its compelling feel and goes on and on and on about the same point till where it overstays its welcome by a long-shot.