Serves him right for pimpin’ all those Macs. Michael Parks, Justin Long, Genesis Rodriguez and Academy Award nominee Haley Joel Osment star in Kevin Smith’s Tusk.
Director – Kevin Smith
Screenplay – Kevin Smith
Producer – William D. Johnson, Shannon McIntosh & Sam Englebardt
Rated R for some disturbing violence/gore, language and sexual content
Wallace Bryton (Justin Long) and Teddy Craft (Haley Joel Osment) host the popular podcast The Not-See Party (say it fast), where they find videos of people doing humiliating things and make fun of them. Their most recent goldmine is a viral video done by the “Kill Bill Kid”, who accidentally cut his leg off with a katana. Wanting to interview the kid in person, Wallace plans a trip up to Canada.
However, Wallace arrives in Manitoba to unfortunate circumstances with thwarts his plans. Feeling he came up to Canada for nothing and needing new material to make fun of, he stumbles upon a flier from Howard Howe (Michael Parks), a elderly who promises stories of a lifetime. Intrigued, Wallace heads up to Bifrost, Manitoba, to meet Howe, but that elderly man might not be who he initially appears to be.
This is another one of those movies where I slap a big fat “NOT FOR EVERYONE!” disclaimer on it.
This film is pretty much everything The Human Centipede films wish they could be.
Writer/director Kevin Smith has been a huge filmmaking influence on me every since I first saw Clerks. It’s been a while since he last did a worthwhile film with 2008’s Zack and Miri Make a Porno and the 2006 sequel to Clerks. Red State, while not terrible, was just an average film mostly burdened by its preachiness, and Cop Out – well, that was garbage. Based on a podcast conversation between Smith and his longtime producing collaborator Scott Mosier about a bizarre Gumtree ad they saw, Tusk is certainly fresh, original and unlike anything we’ve seen from Smith yet.
And this is the same man that gave us Dogma.
The film is at its best when it’s just Justin Long and Michael Parks together onscreen, although Smith intersperses flashback scenes that effectively develop Long’s character. Despite numerous screen appearances, Parks has mostly been recognized in his work with Robert Rodriguez (From Dusk Till Dawn, Grindhouse) and Quentin Tarantino (Kill Bill, Grindhouse, Django Unchained). It’s only been recently that he started working with Kevin Smith, and it’s his performance alone that merits a recommendation from me. Parks is utterly captivating here, and there are moments where Smith wisely just lets the camera focus on Parks as he delivers his scene. The performance generates chills on its own.
Without spoiling anything for you, it’s the two scenes where Long’s character begins to realize what he’s gotten himself into that are the highlights of this film. Combining a dark sense of humor that Smith knows so well with a tense, unsettling atmosphere that would make Annie Wilkes proud, they’re creepy moments for sure, but they’re also enveloped in a self-aware ridiculousness that makes it fun.
In what has to be the first screen appearance I’ve seen of him in over a decade, Haley Joel Osment is solid as Long’s best friend, as is Genesis Rodriguez as Long’s girlfriend. There’s also an extended cameo (that many reviewers have been spoiling) that mostly works.
Which brings to my one complaint with the film, and that’s why I said “mostly” works. Once the third act rolls around, it’s almost like Smith turns the focus on his manhunt of Parks’s Howe when it should’ve still been kept on both Parks and Long. That’s not to say it isn’t a fun cameo, and we’ll see him again in a much more significant role in Smith’s next film (part of me feels Smith wanted to establish the character as much as he could leading up to it). A little more judicious editing, though, still would’ve benefited the film.
Criticism aside, Tusk is still a knowingly ridiculous, self-deprecating film that I know will widely divide opinions, but it also has a lot going for it. Namely, a terrifyingly entertaining turn from Michael Parks, a nice supporting cast, and some terrific practical makeup effects from Robert Kurtzman. It’s a welcome return to form for Kevin Smith that has me on board with this new creative surge he’s regained. Love it or hate it, you’ll be hard pressed to forget it.
I give Tusk a B+ (★★★).