TUSK: A study in Ivory
The movie “Tusk” is a crowning achievement for Kevin Smith, who manages to summon some of the best writing and direction he has done hietherto.
It is ironic that, “Tusk” suffers from its strengths as much as it does its weaknesses. “Tusk” feels a need to cater to Mr. Smith's original audience by placing characters within the “Tusk's” world, which frankly seem misplaced. Haley Joel Osment's character Teddy Craft an amalgam of, perhaps, Scott Mosier, and other View Askew supporting roles, seems out of place. As does the sub-plot of an adulterous-amours affair between Craft and Ally Leon played by Telemundo actress Genesis Rodriguez. Craft's and Leon's scenes are so disjointed and drawn out, the audience completely forgets about the romantic implications of the lover's quandary as does Smith, who abandons the exploration of sexual liaisons in favor of a Québécois Jacques Clouseau.
In fact, I could not shake the feeling I was watching a Godfrey Ho movie. For those who are unfamiliar with the “Ed Wood of Hong Kong cinema”. Mr. Ho would cobble together two, or more, separate movies (let's call them film A and film B), and edit them together in such a way there would be a casual (and even that word is a stretch) relationship between film A and film B. In “Tusk” Michael Parks's character Howard Howe and Wallace Bryton, played by Justin Long, occupy film A, while Craft and Leon occupy film B. And despite the strong performances by all parties, the movie suffers so much from editing.
Perhaps it is because the writing, direction, and acting by Mr. Parks is so superb the sub-plot of film B, withers on the vine. Frankly, it becomes a bit of a bore listening to the average tale of two adulterous betrayers, despite how well Genesis Rodriguez dresses up the performance. She is a fine actor, but Mr. Smith and Mr. Parks have created such an interesting character, anything else centered not solely on him became an experiment in tedium.
Mr. Smith's character creation of Howard Howe, and Mr. Parks delivery of the script has created nothing short of a masterpiece. The pacing, the cinematography, all lend to the credibility and depth of the Howard Howe. It is my opinion, this character is an iconic masterpiece, and will be long remembered in the annals of film history. Perhaps if a little more care had been given to editing, Howard Howe would have shared in the ranks of Count Dracula, Darth Vader, and Hannibal Lecture. Yet, there is still hope. The Howard Howe character is such a study it demands an expansion into theater; perhaps a one-man show. It could be called “A study in Ivory.”
Despite my appraisals, and lofty demands of a continuation of Howard Howe into the foray of theater, Mr. Smith is at a cross roads. He has grown as a director however, it is his attachment, perhaps a fondness for his earlier work and the fanatics he still writes for, that is holding him back from advancing as an editor. Tusk has pacing problems, but it's a damn good story. Kevin Smith proves he is one of the most talented people in Hollywood, although Smith downplays it, he clearly is intelligent to improve. I look forward to his future films in “The Great North Trilogy.”