Peter’s Pick of the Week: Tusk
Tusk is a film that Kevin Smith initially conceptualized on his SModcast Podcast, leading to a fan vote to determine the project’s fate.
Sure enough, a lot of us voted “yes”. Shortly after that, Smith was into pre-production. I saw the film a few years back, Vinny and I even discussed it on our first episode. After watching it again recently, I have to marvel at its origins. I have never heard of a movie being produced essentially by fan vote. On top of that, I think it’s one of Smith’s strongest films. Of course you can argue that the movie is completely absurd, but that was the point. The movie knows it, and thrives because of it. Justin Long’s character, Wallace, hosts a podcast in which he interviews “stars” from viral videos. After a failed attempt at an interview, he is lured in by an old man and his tales.
I think this is an intriguing and unique plot. The late Michael Parks gives a fantastic performance as Howard Howe. He delivers Smith’s dialogue with such gravitas that he makes the absurdity of the film work. You are drawn in by his stories, just as much as Wallace. Justin Long does a great job but Parks really hits out of…the park.
As the film enters its third act, we are introduced to the detective Guy Lapointe, played by Johnny Depp. In my opinion, this is one of Depp’s best performances. At first you can’t even tell that it’s him. He begins to tell stories of his own, and just like Parks, they pull you in. Surrounding a ridiculous plot with these old storytellers spinning their tales really makes for a rather brilliant film. From the way he talks, down to his numerous eccentricities, Depp steals every scene that he’s in. The Walrus make-up was conceived and executed by the legendary Robert Kurtzman of KNB effects. As insane as it is, you actually buy that it was once a human. He also does an amazing job with Depp’s Guy Lapointe makeup. I really love Smith’s approach of taking the Tusk’s subject matter seriously. Tusk could have been made without any sense of sincerity, but I think it would have suffered that way. You wouldn’t be as drawn in with the characters and dialogue if their delivery was as absurd as the plot. In this film, Smith writes some of his best dialogue and creates some of the best characters he has ever put on screen. Despite negative reviews you may have read, I strongly suggest that you don’t let that discourage you from watching it.
Tusk is available on Blu-Ray, DVD and VOD.