I reviewed Tusk, Kevin Smith's bonkers new weirdo-movie, in today's Washington Times.
Short version: I liked the focused, nutso first half. And then the movie just trails off. From my review:
Much of the movie's first half pits Wallace against Howe in increasingly quirky, tension-building conversations. These scenes are long, slow and masterfully acted and written.
Mr. Smith, one of the icons of indie cinema in the 1990s, built his reputation on his ability to craft nimble, funny, existentialist dialogue. In films like "Clerks" and "Mallrats," he captured the circular rhythms and pop-infused sensibility of bored and aimless Gen Xers.
In "Tusk," his target is the cruel, nihilistic wit of the Internet generation, embodied with sleazy gusto by Mr. Long (who first came to fame in a series of ads for Apple computers). But instead of pairing Mr. Long with another of his own kind, Mr. Smith sets him up against someone who turns out to be far more cruel and mischievous.
Howe is an exquisitely deranged horror-flick villain, played with intense and often hilarious midnight-movie menace by Mr. Parks, and written with a kind of meticulous specificity by Mr. Smith.
I won't spoil the details of Howe's big plan, but let's just say it's not an accident that Wallace's name sounds an awful lot like "walrus." Essentially, Howe plans to use and abuse Wallace for his own amusement, just as Wallace planned to do with the young man he originally intended to interview.
Most attempts to create instant cult-hits fall flat. They're too over the top, too self-conscious, too in-on-the-joke. Smith isn't totally successful, but he comes a lot closer than usual on Tusk, because even though the central concept is completely ridiculous, the movie isn't just an exercise in wink-wink, nudge-nudge goofiness. It's straight faced enough, and yet also bizarre enough, that there are times when you can't quite tell whether it's a horror movie or a comedy or just a stunt with a wide theatrical release. The real answer, I think, is that it's all of the above.