BARDO Magazine Issue 1 - Page 18

You know, in the modern age of film, we're handed a lot of the same shit. We've got plenty of superhero movies, remakes, reboots, found footage horror films and overblown love stories to go around, and not a whole lot that isn't that. Now I'm not saying that I don't like movies that fall under any of those categories, because I like plenty that do. My point here is that when a movie comes along that is completely different than the Hollywood norm, it's something to take notice of. Especially when the movie in question gives as few fucks as Tusk does.

Tusk is Film #11 in Kevin Smith's exponentially growing, mostly solid filmography. It stars the highly overlooked Michael Parks, as well as the lovable Justin Long. Before we get into the plot of the film, I'm gonna go ahead and say that this is one of Michael Parks' best performances in the past decade. Howard Howe, the deranged man whom Parks plays, is certainly the role that shines the brightest light on his acting chops. Parks is usually delegated to cameo roles in Quentin Tarantino movies as of late, but not here. Here, he spends the first half of the movie being the most subtly creepy and strangely intriguing old man ever seen in a Kevin Smith film, and the second half chewing the scenery and just being fucking nuts.

With that said, let me get into the movie.

Tusk begins with two guys on a podcast laughing their asses off. If you don't know what a podcast is, Justin Long's character, by the name of Wallace Bryton, describes it as a "radio show on the internet". I think maybe that's churchin' it up a bit, though. A podcast is similar to a radio show, but it usually doesn't incorporate all of the bells and whistles that a radio show does. Our two heroes, Wallace and his friend Teddy (played by that kid from the Sixth Sense), are guffawing about the "Kill Bill Kid" - Star Wars Kid-esque lad who films himself playing with a katana. As you can expect, the video ends with the poor guy cutting his fucking leg off. Some cheesy special effects, some forced laughter, and we're off to Canada to see Wallace interview the Kill Bill Kid. Only he doesn't get to, because the Kill Bill Kid committed suicide, Seppuku-style.

Stranded in Canada with nobody to interview, Wallace stews in a bar. While taking a leak, Wallace spots a flyer on the wall written by none other than Howard Howe. It's basically a housing ad, though the part about how many "interesting stories" Howe has to share is what catches Bryton's eye. So a bit more meandering and finally we're at Pippy Hill, Mr. Howe's home. This is where we exit Phase 1: The Clunky Start and enter Phase 2: Creepy Thriller. Bryton sits down with Howe for some tea, and we get to watch as Michael Parks fucking kills monologue after monologue (albeit with the occasional interjection from Long). Not that Justin Long is a bad actor or anything. He just doesn't really compare to Parks (and honestly, how many actors working today do?).

Howe tells stories about Ernest Hemingway, D-Day (referred to as Operation Neptune), getting lost at sea, and then a walrus dick bone on a mantle leads him to reminisce about the companion he had while he was stranded. The Wilson to his Tom Hanks turns out to be none other than a walrus, named 'Mr. Tusk'. Yeah, if you didn't know already, this is a fucking walrus movie. As Howe tells his story, Long becomes visibly woozy, leading up to him flat out passing out in the floor. After a flashback introducing his girlfriend Ali (played by Genesis Rodriguez), Wallace wakes up to find that his leg is missing and Howe is smoothing a bone that was carved into a tusk. See where this is going?

Howe and a doped-up Bryton sit down for dinner, where Howe finally reveals how fucking crazy he really is. There is no beating around the bush here. Subtlety goes out the window, as Howe flat out tells Bryton that he plans to - wait for it - surgically sew him into a "realistic" walrus suit. Howe wants to relive the glory days on Ponder Rock with Mr. Tusk, and he doesn't mind taking a human hostage to do it. Throughout the course of the movie, Howe reveals that he is acutely misanthropic. I mean this guy hates humans like you fucking read about, but he's real fond of walruses. I guess that explains why he wants to stick a guy in a walrus suit.

Teddy and Ali, after receiving a distraught message from Bryton, are searching frantically for the missing podcaster. I'm not too interested in that though, because what follows next is something never before seen on film. Smith goes for a slow reveal here, as Howe recites Lewis Carroll to something fleshy. Something sown together, a la Leatherface. Something with flippers, something that's bellowing at the top of it's fucking lungs (maybe in agony, maybe in horror). And finally the camera cuts to Justin Long, screaming at us from inside of a big fucking walrus suit. And holy shit, does this scene get a reaction out of you. Whether it's absolute horror, utter confusion, or gut-busting laughter, you're gonna be visibly affected by this fucked-up thing.

So as we exit Phase 2: Creepy Thriller, we enter Phase 3: Absolute Bizarreness. For a bit, we're cutting back and forth between Teddy and Ali playing detectives and Mr. Howe teaching the walrusified Wallace Bryton how to truly be a walrus. Now, the shit with Teddy and Ali isn't boring exactly. It's just the walrus stuff is so much more interesting (at least to me). This seems to be recurring theme with this movie: something average being overshadowed by something that's balls-to-the-wall insane. Then out of nowhere, everything stops for a few minutes and the red carpet rolls out as we're introduced to Guy LaPointe (played by none other than Johnny fucking Depp).

There are two things in this movie that are very outlandish. One of those things is the walrus aspect, and the other is Guy LaPointe. Depp's got a handle bar moustache, bushy eyebrows, a prosthetic nose and a beret to really hammer in the fact that he's playing a wacky Quebec detective. By this point in the film, I've completely forgotten what subtlety is as this point. And the weird thing is, I don't even care. If you want to see a quiet, introspective look at the human condition, this is NOT the movie for you. Canadian stereotypes, SModcast references and rubber walrus suits are what this movie entails, so just keep that in mind.

So Guy LaPointe, pouring booze in his milkshake as he goes on about his hunt for Howard Howe, probably gets more screentimescreen time than the actual walrus does. But as funny as the character Guy LaPointe is, and as fucked up as the walrus is, the true star of the show is still Michael Parks. We get to see a very long flashback sequence that places both Howe and LaPointe in Quebec, the latter questioning the former about a missing hockey player. LaPointe acts absolutely flustered as he attempts to deal with Howe, who's pretending to be a mentally retarded hillbilly. No, I'm not joking. Michael Parks, at one point in a walrus movie, acts like he's mentally handicapped. And I mean, it's not like he doesn't do a good job. If I didn't know any better, I would've said to myself "Man, that guy sure is mentally retarded." The scene goes on for a bit longer than it needs to (much like this review), but eventually it ends and the focus shifts back to Howard Howe and Mr. Tusk.

Every scene with these two is fucking magical to watch, simply because of how completely fucked up it is. Justin Long screams, sobs and drools like an animal as he flops around in that suit, while Parks plays the whole thing off like it's just another day in the life for him. The fact that he did this movie still amazes me. He teaches him to swim, feeds him a fish and even takes time to sit down and have talks with him. It's kind of like a father-son relationship. Maybe a man and his dog is a better analogy. Howe tells his flippered friend that there's a fight comin' up, and that's when you know we're starting to come to the end of the film.

Guy Lapointe, along with Teddy and Ally, are approaching Pippy Hill, toting guns as they come closer to their respective targets. Mr. Tusk is woken by Howard Howe, who - AND I SHIT YOU NOT - is now sporting his own walrus suit. Fleetwood Mac's Tusk booms in the background as the two walrus-men fight it out, like actual walruses. This is the point when I realized this movie transcends cinema in a way we've never seen before. Finally, Howe sheds his walrus suit and prepares to deliver the final blow with that walrus dick bone, and that's when Mr. Tusk finally goes full walrus and gains the upper hand. Just as he's stabbing the fuck out of Howe with his tusks, Ally and Teddy burst in and see this blood soaked beat who used to be Wallace Bryton. I can't help but wonder what they were thinking while they filmed this scene. LaPointe stumbles in with his gun and they play it off like he's about to shoot him. Cut to black, and fast forward to a year later.

Ally and Teddy enter a wildlife sanctuary and, as it turns out, Wallace Bryton is still alive and sewn into his walrus suit. They throw a mackerel into his new-and-improved walrus enclave and as he devours his fish, we get one last flashback: Ally tells Wallace "It's okay to cry. It sepaerates us from the animals." A tear runs down Wallace's face as his former girlfriend walks away, and we're to assume the point is "Wallace isn't full walrus after all." Cue the sad rendition of The Water Is Wide by Gerard Way (fucking weird, right?) as the credits roll.

So what can I really say about this movie? There is no movie out there that is as fucking wacky as this movie is. Kevin Smith has finally left his slacker comedy comfort zone, to make the most bizarre movie of 2014, and it was totally worth it. This feels like a new Kevin Smith, one that writes from his own imagination rather than from his life experiences. And there couldn't have been a weirder movie to make that change. However, it didn't do well at the box office (though that might have something to do with the fact that it was only screened at 600 theaters) and it was panned or ignored by most critics. And the thing about this movie is that I totally get why. This movie is not for everyone. If you don't like fucked up bizarre shit, this movie isn't for you. If you don't like Kevin Smith, this movie is not for you. If you don't wanna see Michael Parks or Johnny Depp chewing the scenery, this movie is not for you. But if you like any of the shit, then maybe you'll like this movie. I know I sure did.

Tusk:

"There is no movie out there that is as fucking wacky as this movie is."

Reviewed by Dave Puckett

Tusk begins with two guys on a podcast laughing their asses off. If you don't know what a podcast is, Justin Long's character, by the name of Wallace Bryton, describes it as a "radio show on the internet". I think maybe that's churchin' it up a bit, though. A podcast is similar to a radio show, but it usually doesn't incorporate all of the bells and whistles that a radio show does. Our two heroes, Wallace and his friend Teddy (played by that kid from the Sixth Sense), are guffawing about the "Kill Bill Kid" - Star Wars Kid-esque lad who films himself playing with a katana. As you can expect, the video ends with the poor guy cutting his fucking leg off. Some cheesy special effects, some forced laughter, and we're off to Canada to see Wallace interview the Kill Bill Kid. Only he doesn't get to, because the Kill Bill Kid committed suicide, Seppuku-style. Stranded in Canada with nobody to interview, Wallace stews in a bar. While taking a leak, Wallace spots a flyer on the wall written by none other than Howard Howe. It's basically a housing ad, though the part about how many "interesting stories" Howe has to share is what catches Bryton's eye. So a bit more meandering and finally we're at Pippy Hill, Mr. Howe's home. This is where we exit Phase 1: The Clunky Start and enter Phase 2: Creepy Thriller. Bryton sits down with Howe for some tea, and we get to watch as Michael Parks fucking kills monologue after monologue (albeit with the occasional interjection from Long). Not that Justin Long is a bad actor or anything. He just doesn't really compare to Parks (and honestly, how many actors working today do?).

Bryton's eye. So a bit more meandering and finally we're at Pippy Hill, Mr. Howe's home. This is where we exit Phase 1: The Clunky Start and enter Phase 2: Creepy Thriller. Bryton sits down with Howe for some tea, and we get to watch as Michael Parks fucking kills monologue after monologue (albeit with the occasional interjection from Long). Not that Justin Long is a bad actor or anything. He just doesn't really compare to Parks (and honestly, how many actors working today do?).

Howe tells stories about Ernest Hemingway, D-Day (referred to as Operation Neptune), getting lost at sea, and then a walrus dick bone on a mantle leads him to reminisce about the companion he had while he was stranded. The Wilson to his Tom Hanks turns out to be none other than a walrus, named 'Mr. Tusk'. Yeah, if you didn't know already, this is a fucking walrus movie. As Howe tells his story, Long becomes visibly woozy, leading up to him flat out passing out in the floor. After a flashback introducing his girlfriend Ali (played by Genesis Rodriguez), Wallace wakes up to find that his leg is missing and Howe is smoothing a bone that was carved into a tusk. See where this is going?