Director: Kevin Smith
Writer: Kevin Smith
Top Billed: Michael Parks, Justin Long
I have no words for what I just witnessed, no snarky tag line, no nothing. Today I review the new Kevin Smith film Tusk.
Some things just cannot be unseen. Justin Long is Wallace, an annoying mean spirited podcaster with a vulgar vocabulary and a crass personality. Wallace makes his living by mocking and or humiliating poor souls in a Daniel Tosh-esque fashion. Wallace heads to the great white north to pick on his next victim. When things inevitably do not go as planned he is forced to try and search for a plan-B. After finding a peculiar want ad in the bathroom of a run down bar Wallace believes he’s found his new mark in former seafarer Howard Howe (Michael Parks). Heading off the beaten path He finds himself in front of the old man engaging in friendly particulars when once again things appear to go awry and we learn that the old man has more sickeningly sinister plans for our poor Wallace then he could have ever dreamed of.
There is no questioning that Tusk has a strangely memorable premise that will likely stick with you long after viewing. However in the end it fails to be all that funny and or scary, and unfortunately not all that interesting. Certainly Smith was trying to be cleverly funny, but his attempt at shock and awe humor is in fact shocking, but not generally all that well thought out. Smith has delighted us in the past with some indie comedy gold like Mallrats, Clerks and Clerks 2, and Dogma, but Tusk does not live up to the bill.
Outside of the outlandishly kooky premise are some solid performances. Justin Long, while extremely unlikable, is still very good. Playing so that you struggle to empathize with him, the grotesque transformation he endures allows you to feel for his character regardless. Long is surprisingly funny in a film that borders on the feverishly campy. Outside of Long our antagonist Mr. Howe played by Michael Parks is hilariously and unabashedly crazy and fun. The two main characters have a back and forth that feels harshly terrifying at times. Providing the films only highlights, Long and Parks have a gleefully playful rapport that helps calm the sadistic subject matter for a small portion.
The real issue here is that the movie is actually too self aware. Kevin Smith’s style of comedy is too unfocused to pull off such an elaborate prank. Tusk lacks discipline, making for the deliberately absurd plot twist lack it’s needed hilarity, and instead just feels foolish.
Smith does his best to create a tongue in cheek atmosphere in an attempt to salute the purposely campy grindhouse features of old. However Tusk is far too conscious, making for a film that feels calculated in lieu of being driven by mad inspiration, which in turn makes the ridiculous plot fall a little flat. Smith usually over runs his films with monologuing and dialogue instead of using visuals. While he normally has a smartly stark writing style allowing him to get away with this in previous films, Tusk’s script comes off as dull-witted and bland. This is especially egregious because the movie had such an opportunity to be so visually rich and vibrant, but instead settles for massive stints of wordiness.
Outside of the two leads, the rest of the cast turns in some surprisingly forgetful performances. Between Genesis Rodriguez and Haley Joel-Osment there isn’t anything particularly screen grabbing about them, making for the cutaways from our main characters to be profoundly boring. There is also the shocking appearance of one major celebrity as the peculiar French Canadian investigator, who is not only absurd, but unnecessarily dumb and unfunny.
Tusk is basically a film made strictly for fans of Kevin Smith, that are familiar with the projects small origins (the idea was thought up and suggested on a podcast). Long is quite enjoyable to watch, transitioning from wise cracking jackass too terrified captive with ease. Parks is similarly enjoyable playing it carefully understated yet hammy all at the same time. Where the film fails is in its screenplay. Opting to create an annoyingly wordy film, instead of allowing the powerfully absurd imagery to do it’s job. Smith needed to trust his two leads with their delivery but drastically over complicates things. The dialogue lacked all subtlety and the characters, outside of Long and Parks, were given no substance. Tusk is an example of a film with lofty aspirations, yet somehow fails to make anything interesting out of it’s ridiculously comedic subject matter. I’ll give Tusk a 2/5, as it manages some humor and shock, but ultimately fails to achieve what it set out to do.
2/5 Do Better Bro