Kevin Smith set his horror movie in Canada

…feat. a Québécois detective played by a major Hollywood star. PLUS Al Pacino goes subtle in Manglehorn & more from TIFF.


Justin Long in Tusk

The TIFF schedule is rather precisely calibrated:

The first few days have a flurry of screenings of smaller films (often those without distributors) in an effort to be seen by as many buyers and programmers as possible.

The first weekend has huge premieres, but Sunday dies down considerably to allow for interviews before Monday and Tuesday’s premiere juggernauts (Foxcatcher, The Imitation Game etc).

By the second weekend, press screenings are entirely gone and most journalists have returned home.

Knowing that I couldn’t make it to any of the aforementioned weekday juggernauts, I attempted to pack my last day with movies (or rather the front half of it) but just couldn’t be inspired by what was in store for me. After interviews with Jean-Marc Vallée and Laura Dern (watch for those when Wild is released in theatres) ran long and I couldn’t fit a meal in before my screening of Tusk, I opted for a slacker schedule. (Not fitting in meals is pretty standard TIFF fare, but after not eating at any normal time five days in a row, I needed something that I could eat with a fork and didn’t come wrapped in wax paper.)

I also spent part of Sunday hitting up the only party of my stay at TIFF, a Midnight Madness cocktail DJed by former Montrealer / Blue Sunshine co-honcho David Bertrand, which eventually led to us venturing far out of the TIFF zone for a bar screening of the inexplicable ’80s cheese classic Never Too Young to Die, starring a gymnastics-crazy John Stamos and cross-dressing Gene Simmons duking it out in the desert / on top of a dam / in a warehouse. Dave loves this movie (I was going to say inexplicably, but it is very explicable) and watching it served as a sobering reminder that even though I hadn’t been bowled away by a lot of the stuff I saw at TIFF, the bottom of the barrel was very far indeed.

That’s not it for our TIFF coverage, though — expect capsule reviews from my colleague Radina Papukchieva later in the week, and I’ll be returning to Toronto next weekend to round up some of the bigger titles that I missed.



Al Pacino in Manglehorn
Al Pacino in Manglehorn

It’s hard to say whether Al Pacino’s performance in Manglehorn is so affecting because it’s legitimately amazing or because Pacino is finally giving a performance of the quality we used to expect from him. Granted, there are few actors who keep excellent batting averages into their 70s, and Pacino at the very least makes fewer movies than, say, De Niro, but Manglehorn shows that he’s still got some fire in him. Pacino is so restrained here that he seems like he’s never hoo-hah’d once in his life. He plays AJ Manglehorn, a reclusive locksmith with a routine that revolves around weekly visits to the same bank teller (Holly Hunter), eating at the same depressing cafeteria every day and writing letters to his lost love, Clara, almost daily. Manglehorn is a ’70s-style character study (reminiscent in some ways of Pacino’s underrated 1973 film Scarecrow) in which not a whole lot happens, preferring instead to let the character of Manglehorn breathe and exist in the small world director David Gordon Green has created for him. There are touches of magical realism that don’t entirely work, but it’s Pacino’s show all the way. It’s been such a long time since I could say that and mean it.



Every time Kevin Smith announces a new movie, he does such a good job of selling it that I actually believe him when he says it’s going to change the world and paint his work in a whole new light. Then I feel like a rube when it turns out that his new movie is almost exactly as I expected it to be. Tusk was billed as Smith’s pure horror film, a galvanizing experience in terror that was like nothing he’d ever made before — turns out that, while entertaining, Tusk is also guilty of the same things Smith’s last galvanizing experience in horror (Red State) was: characters who sound exactly like Smith making dick jokes, whiplash-inducing shifts in tone and overwritten monologues that only serve to highlight how slight the rest of the movie is.

This tale of a podcaster (Justin Long) who travels to Canada for a story only to fall in the grasp of an old sailor (Michael Parks) who wants to sew him into a walrus costume made of human skin for nebulous reasons is better shot than almost any other Smith movie and is certainly weird enough to remain consistently engaging from start to finish, but its already wobbly tone goes out the window when the third act introduces a French-Canadian detective named Guy Lapointe (played by a superstar actor that I won’t reveal here, but that info should be easy to find should you choose to seek it out). The character turns Tusk into an altogether different beast (pun intended), confirming that whatever Smith thinks he may be doing, he’s not quite there yet. ■


See our previous TIFF reports, feat. reviews of new films by Jean-Marc Vallée, Roy Andersson, Charles Binamé, Peter Strickland & Marjane Satrapi, here