Directed by: Kevin Smith
Written by: Kevin Smith
Starring: Michael Parks, Justin Long, Genesis Rodriguez, Haley Joel Osment, Johnny Depp
Reviewed by: Brad Williamson
Genre: Horror / Thriller
Tusk is one of the most difficult movies I’ve ever tried to score, because the good is so good while the bad is really bad. What do you give a movie that has perfection and genius mixed with horrible comedy, bad editing, and misused themes? I originally thought the good slightly outweighed the bad and considered rating Tusk a 3 or even 3.5, but after some thought, the bad is just too bad, and the movie results in an average score. Still, it is definitely not an average film, and here’s why:
Tusk sinks to its lowest points at the beginning of the film with tasteless, humorless jokes and banter, unnecessary and unrelated gore, and wasted minutes with dialogue that no one wants to listen to and doesn’t improve or assist the film. The ultimate conclusion is also hurried, unfinished, and unsatisfying, another low part of the film. What frustrated me most about the introduction and ending was that they could have been so easily improved with some sensible editing. The first 20-30 minutes could almost be entirely deleted from the film, allowing for both a more captivating and cohesive first act, and for the ending to be more thoroughly explored and wrapped up. Why they didn’t do this is beyond me, and the film definitely suffered from it.
Furthermore, you can hear Kevin Smith talking about the film while the credits roll and it sounds like he’s actually happy with the ending, that he thinks it’s funny and good. This juxtaposition of such a horrible take with the amazing middle of the film, conceived by the same director, is absolutely beyond me and maddeningly frustrating.
Tusk soars to its highest reaches in the middle of the film, which is filled with thoughtful and surreal dialogue, great sets occupied by convincing acting, beautifully shot black-and-white montages and flashbacks, and a pervading grotesqueness that avoids being distasteful. It was violent and gory without being gross, evil and demented without being unwatchable, and psychologically provocative. There were scenes, discussions, and situations that I’ll never forget, truly monumental moments of cinema. It’s just too bad they were spoiled by their before and after.
I definitely recommend the film to any fan of horror, thriller, or psychological themes, but with a notice: don’t give up during the first half an hour, and be prepared to be very, very, disappointed by the end.