Kevin Smith

1994
Clerks 70
[ The acting and production values are dirt-poor, but right out of the gate Kevin Smith showed a distinctive ear for dialogue, be it hilarious dick and fart jokes or true insights into relationships, pop culture and life as a convenience or video store clerk, jobs I’m both very familiar with. “This job would be great if it wasn’t for the fucking customers.” ]

1995
Mallrats 54
[ Kevin Smith does ‘80s-style youth comedy in his more or less justifiably maligned second film. Jeremy London is one of the most unappealing “actors” to ever step in front of a camera and the movie often veers too far into stupid slapstick, but “Mallrats” deserves to be cherished nonetheless if only for introducing the world to the wise-ass godliness of then-pro skateboarder Jason Lee. ]

1997
Chasing Amy 87
[ review ]

1999
Dogma 88
[ review ]

2001
Jay & Silent Bob Strike Back 81
[ review ]

2002
An evening with Kevin Smith 80
[ What’s Kevin Smith’s biggest talent? His writing, right? I mean, dude is not the best director in the world, but he’s able to write movies both heartfelt and hilarious, smart and juvenile. But even his writing can get messy and compromised at times, and who knows what actors can do to ruin good material (that means you, Jeremy London). So what better way to get the full Smith experience than to spend 4 hours listening to the man himself? This DVD was shot during a series of Q&A sessions in colleges across America in which Smith talks in depth – and vulgarity – about his movies, of course, but also tells great anecdotes about watching a Jason Mewes sex tape, protesting his own “Dogma”, his infamously rejected “Superman Lives” screenplay and subsequent feud with Tim Burton, the first time he scored with his wife, his failed documentary project with Prince… Smith is truly a gifted storyteller, and this a real treat. ]

2004
Jersey Girl 55
[ review ]

2006
Clerks II 91
[ review ] [ my interview with Kevin Smith ]

2008
Zack and Miri Make a Porno 65
[ review ]

2010
Cop Out 67
[ review ]

2011
Red State 88
[ In 2006, I had the chance to do a long phone interview with Kevin Smith. The man was in a good mood and talked with enthusiasm about his latest directorial effort, Clerks 2, clearly a very personal project and, in my opinion, the best thing he’s ever made.

Since then, if you’ve been following the filmmaker’s countless tweets, blogs and podcasts, you know that things have changed in many ways for him. There was the relatively disappointing box-office performance of Zack and Miri Make a Porno, the Seth Rogen vehicle with which he tried to beat Judd Apatow at his own game. After that, Smith surprised many by accepting for the first time to direct a film he hadn’t written, the Bruce Willis-Tracy Morgan ‘80s-style buddy cop comedy Cop Out. That film easily became his biggest commercial hit ever, but the critical response was so viciously negative that Smith swore off critics altogether.

Other controversies arose around him at that time and since, including the silly incident when he was kicked off a Southwest Airlines flight because he was allegedly “too fat to fly” and his misunderstood announcement at Sundance that he would self-distribute his latest feature, Red State, ostensibly because he doesn’t believe in the conventional movie business model anymore.

So basically, Kevin Smith has had many reasons to get angry these past few years, at journalists, at airlines, at the film industry… Having now seen Red State, which had its Canadian premiere during Fantasia’s opening night last week, it appears that the former Silent Bob is also pissed off about more serious matters, starting with Christian fundamentalists who preach anti-homosexual hatred.

Inspired by Fred Phelps, the Westboro Baptist Church and their bullshit “God Hates Fags” campaign, but also by the Waco siege and the U.S. government’s post-9/11 excesses, Smith has put together a violently nihilistic film that comes off like an unholy cross between “Hostel”, “There Will Be Blood” and “Die Hard”, if that makes any sense. Going back and forth between horror, action and black comedy, all the while blasting away at religion and politics, Red State blends genres and juggles tone in ways that call to mind Quentin Tarantino or the Coen brothers.

This is the Kevin Smith of “Dogma” back with a vengeance, delivering a gritty-as-fuck flick that’s not without its flaws (a bit too much exposition here, a shaky scene there), but that skilfully pushes the audience’s buttons more often than not. For what it’s worth, it certainly played like gangbusters at Fantasia.

Talking about it with various folks after the screening, I did run into a few people who hated it, but even those had nothing but praise for Michael Parks and his riveting portrayal of Pastor Abin Cooper. I personally also got a kick out of Nicholas Braun, Michael Angarano and Kyle Gallner as the hilariously sleazy teenagers who inadvertently put the plot into motion, Melissa Leo as one of the most fanatical members of the Cooper family, and John Goodman as an ATF agent who shows up two thirds of the way through and practically walks away with the movie. ]

2014
Tusk 45
[ review ]

2016
Yoga Hosers 61
[ Reviewed on Extra Beurre ]