“All things truly wicked start from innocence.”
Kevin Smith is, in a lot of ways, a blue collar director. He appeals to a certain caste of people that are, in their own way, pretentious but also endearing. They are the everyday working class people who enjoy drifting away into comics and movies. In full disclosure, I self-identify as a Kevin Smith fan boy. I have often found myself waxing intellectual about View Askew movies around a cup of coffee. I enjoy his humor and his unrelenting work ethic. With all that being said, there are a few movies I would advise you to stay away from. Tusk, however, isn’t one of them.
That isn’t to say Tusk is particularly great, but it does show a growth of filmmaking from Smith. It is also a ton of fun. Tusk falls somewhere between Red State and Clerks II on the Kevin Smith greatness meter. Red State is, in my opinion, Smith’s best film. Maybe because it was something considered so out of the box from Smith’s normal movie making, but Red State felt refreshing and honest. Smith has always been able to fill his films with great casts, and Tusk is no different. Justin Long (Dodgeball) stars as the lead, Wallace Bryton. Bryton is a smug, arrogant, funny, and smart podcaster, who is on the road looking to interview strange and interesting people. A series of unfortunate events leads Wallace to Howard Howe. Howe is played by the delightfully menacing Michael Parks (Kill Bill). The rest of the cast is filled out by Haley Joel Osment (The Sixth Sense) and Genesis Rodriguez (The Last Stand). There is also a special guest star, but I won’t ruin the fun. The acting is fine, but Osment seems underused, and the guest star seems to be a little too inconspicuous. Parks, Rodriquez, and Long are awesome. They are so good that at times it feels like they are in a different movie.
The plot is hard to talk about without giving too much away, but the name of the movie itself does do a little spoiling. Wallace is being held captive by Howe who hates humans and loves walruses. This sounds simplistic, but to say much more would be too much. The film’s plot plays out like Tarantino’s Death Proof. There is a lot of exposition and build up, but there is also extreme violence and a very strange climax. This all amounts to an interesting but uneven film. The third act at times feels like a separate movie with over-the-top acting and poor make-up. Smith always does a great job of world building, and Tusk is no different. That is why the first two acts work so well. His set-up for Wallace seems realistic and maybe a little autobiographical.
Tusk isn’t Kevin Smith’s best film, but it certainly isn’t Jersey Girl either. With great leads and excellent direction, Tusk is worth seeing. If Smith can find a collaborator who will hold his feet to the fire or help him reign in some of his bad habits, his next venture outside comedy might be a game changer. The potential and skill is there; all he needs is, in the words of the Joker, “a little push”.