FOR TUSK LOVERS
Dir. Kevin Smith
Starring: Michael Parks, Justin Long, Haley Joel Osment, Genesis Rodriguez, Johnny Depp
Review By Greg Klymkiw
Beware of Bifrost, Manitoba. If he's not careful, a dude can be turned into a walrus in that neck of the Interlake Region. In fact, that's what's been happening thereabouts in a remote mansion in the woods. It's the home of serial killer Howard Howe (Michael Parks), a crusty, poetry-spouting ex-seaman who, as a lad, was rescued from certain death by a walrus, but forced by hunger to eat his blubbery pal. Since that fateful day, Howe returned to his home in Canada and traversed the highways and byways above the 49th parallel, luring young men into his clutches, drugging them, then butchering them on an operating table in one attempt after another to create a walrus out of a human being. When Wallace Bryton (Justin Long), a crass American podcaster comes to Winnipeg, he finds his way into Howe's clutches. Though he's butchered beyond recognition, the lad might find salvation in the form of his best friend (Haley Joel Osmont), his hot girlfriend (Genesis Rodriguez) and a dogged Quebecois detective (Johnny Depp) with a penchant for Gimli Sliders. Now, if any of this sounds remotely stupid, that's because it is. Written and directed by Kevin (Clerks) Smith, one of the more prolific indie American directors, but aesthetically, one of the laziest, Tusk takes the booby prize for being the best film set in Manitoba, but filmed in North Carolina.
Other than 70s icon Michael Parks deliciously chewing the scenery with a few genuinely hilarious monologues penned by Smith and an almost unrecognizable Johnny Depp mugging his way through a pretty damn funny performance as the Joual-spouting inbred from La Belle Province, I can't actually say this is a particularly good movie, but it is intermittently damn entertaining.
Part of it is surely the idea of walrus-obsession. They're damn cute creatures and look uber-cuddly with those rolls of blubber, long whiskers, sad eyes and humungous tusks, so already the movie has a bit of a leg up on pretty much any other movie. As well, the picture is jam-packed with all manner of stereotypical references to Canada and that's always worth celebrating. In fact, Smith even has the appalling poor taste to provide a backstory (and monologue) for Michael Parks detailing his own character's childhood of painful sexual abuse in orphanages.
For some reason, though, I can't find it in me to take a dump on Smith for any of this since the movie alternately creeped me out and made me laugh. I do, however, fault him for continuing to be an unbelievably lazy filmmaker. The movie is a structural mess and goes on for at least 15 to 20 minutes too long, but if you're in the right frame of mind and/or a sick puppy and/or stoned out of your gourd and/or harbour a deep-seeded walrus fetish, there are certainly considerable pleasures to be had (including, YES! Fleetwood Mac doing "Tusk" on the soundtrack).
THE FILM CORNER RATING: **½ Two-and-a-half-stars
Tusk has its world premiere at TIFF 2014 in TIFF'S MIDNIGHT MADNESS.
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