Tusk – 2014

Written and Directed by Kevin Smith
Starring Michael Parks,Justin Long, Haley Joel Osment, Genesis Rodriguez, Johnny Depp

Like most people with more than a passing interest in Tarantino, I have come to appreciate Michael Parks. He’s pretty good in the stuff I have seen. Even in two films by the receding hairline of directing skill, Kevin Smith, he has been at least worth watching. The same can’t be said for Johnny Depp. He’s talented, yes. The talent sees to thrive with better writing and direction than Silent Bob can muster.

Long ago having given up on Kevin Smith, I watched this film because my kids heard it was a scary film while watching youtube. What it is one long boring conversation after another, coupled with scenes meant to show us who the real monster is, a bad comedian with a worse podcast.

This monster is Wallace (Long). He’s got a girlfriend he doesn’t deserve (Rodriguez) and a successful podcast with a partner (Osment) who also doesn’t think he deserves her. He thinks he is funny, in that way that bad script writers make a few jokes that aren’t funny. He looks like the ugly U.S. Citizen in Canada. He’s due for comeuppance. We get it.

If that weren’t enough, we get the description of how he used to be from his girlfriend. The difference in hearing from her rather than seeing the nicer him in a better, more compact screen moment is what you do when you don’t want to bother trying to have your lead actor play that alternate version of himself. Having seen Long in Road Trip even gives me the definite feel that he could have handled this subtle shift.

Instead, we then get to see Wallace in his altered state for the entire last act. How all of this flesh is kept living around the husk of the man is never explained. It looks like a bunch of rubber sewn together and wrapped around. If it were better done, it might seem daunting. Instead we are asked to respond to the bad dialogue and worse visuals with a laughter. Smith and company truly think it is funny.

As if this weren’t enough, Rodriguez and Osment are forced to spend much of the same time with Depp, who is wearing makeup that is even worse than Long. It’s obvious that Smith just points the camera at Depp and tells him to go for it. Whether it’s reverence, fear or laziness, Depp is allowed to meander into the depths of his mind, searching for a way to seem like his version of a Canadian private eye. Every scene with his character is gruelling.

Who is Smith, that he’s been able to have 5 films in the works after this one? He’s a nice guy, but it’s obvious since Mallrats that he’s unable to maintain a story into feature length. He’s meandering and chummy, but he’s not interesting. Someone out there keeps giving him budgets, including $5 million to make the 2nd part of this True North trilogy. If you don’t know the title, don’t worry. Most people don’t. This didn’t even make enough money to pay one key grip minimum wage for a year.

So do you need to see this film? Do you want to see this film? Do you have two hours to waste? No you don’t.

(* out of *****)

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