Sunday, 18 September 2022

Clerks III

Dante’s Inferno

Clerks III
USA  2022
Directed by Kevin Smith
View Askew
UK Cinema Release Print.

Warning: Some spoilerage may occur. Snoogans.

Wow. What can I say? I was expecting to have a reasonably good time with Kevin Smith’s new movie, Clerks III but I wasn’t expecting it to be as great as this. For starters, it’s an absolute belter of a movie which is going to be lapped up by Smith’s many fans and... rightly so. But there’s so much more to it than the expected rush of comedy gold when you are watching this one...

Clerks III is actually the eighth film in the Jay and Silent Bob series of movies (not counting the various animated entries) which began back in 1994, with the original Clerks. That debut film was shot in black and white over nights at the Quick Stop grocery store where Kevin Smith worked during the day, making the movie on credit cards for a very small amount of money and lots of good will (I would imagine). Clerks had one of the lowest budgets of any independent film at the time (probably still holds some kind of record) and it went and won first prize at the Sundance film festival before Smith continued to entertain many people with a series of films based on the ‘side characters’ Jay And Silent Bob, who are sometimes the main protagonists of the films and, in one instance, only appear in one scene. Jay is played by Jason Mews and Silent Bob is played by Kevin Smith himself... who also writes and directs all of these movies. If you want to see the movies in the order of their release, the eight of them are (again, not including various animated incarnations)... Clerks, Mallrats, Chasing Amy (the first one I actually caught at the cinema, after seeing the first two on TV), Dogma, Jay And Silent Bob Strike Back, Clerks II, Jay And Silent Bob Reboot (reviewed here) and, now, Clerks III.

For Clerks III, Brian O'Halloran returns to reprise the role of Dante Hicks and Jeff Anderson reprises his role of Randall. Also, the brilliant Rosario Dawson, who made her entrance into the View Askewniverse (named after Smith’s production company) in Clerks II, returns but she returns in such a way that... well... all I can say is that Smith once again continues to surprise me as a writer, because what might seem like a cop out of necessity in any other film seems like a really well thought out way of using a returning character in a different way... and that’s all I’m saying about Rosario’s return in this.

It would be true to say that this film isn’t really a jumping on point for people who have never seen a Jay and Silent Bob movie. Smith’s films are all slotting into their own linked up universe with characters from others of his films constantly turning up in cameos and crossing over in joyfully convoluted metatextual events... Clerks III is no different in this matter but, even more so in that the plot of the movie actually centres around a huge piece of self referentialism.

Near the start of the film, Randall has a heart attack in the Quick Stop (which long time watchers of the film series may remember has been rebuilt after fire and is now jointly owned by Dante and Randal after Jay and Silent Bob helped them out financially... it’s a long story, watch it all for yourself). Dante gets him to hospital and his life is saved (mirroring somewhat the director’s own real life experiences with a near fatal heart attack a few years ago). This forces Randall to realise how he’s wasted his life working in a Quick Stop for his whole working existence and so he decides to make a low budget, independent movie based on his life with he, Dante, Jay and Silent Bob... and a whole host of regular returning guest actors and returning real life customers... all playing themselves. Which of course, is what Kevin Smith initially did in real life to get him to where he is today.

Ad so the film is an absolute blast as it references a gazillion scenes and faces from prior View Askewniverse movies, basically saying many of the same lines as they did in the first two Clerks movies (primarily... with a few other movies thrown into the mix) and giving us, kind of, rebooted scenes, shot lovingly in black and white, to punctuate the new shenanigans these characters are all getting themselves into. Yep, the egg man (Walt Flanagan), the ‘cunning ruse’ lady, the Salsa shark scene... loads of stuff gets packed in here. There’s even a big reference to the original, cut ending of the original Clerks (which you can see as a deleted scene on many home video releases over the years). It was great seeing a lot of  these people back, including guest cameos from the likes of Danny Trejo, Sarah Michelle Gellar and Askewniverse regular Ben Affleck... but perhaps the nicest inclusion from me (along with the cameo characters played by Smith’s wife and daughter) was the return of Marilyn Ghigliotti as Veronica... Dante’s original girlfriend for whom fans of the original will remember for her association with the number 37.

But that’s not all folks... it turns out that Clerks III is not just a comedy... it’s also a really moving movie with the third act really going for the jugular in terms of emotional impact. It goes to a place I wasn’t quite, expecting and, what happens after the initial set up seems almost so out of left field as to be unfair... which stokes that drama so well. All I can say is I wish I’d taken more hankies with me because I was crying a little in the cinema and I was still in... lets call it a high state of sadness... 20 minutes later when I got home. This is a truly phenomenal entry in the series and yet another great Kevin Smith movie. Without giving it away too much... he could easily make another Jay and Silent Bob movie (and hopefully this isn’t the last) but, while he could still make another Clerks movie... well... what would be the point? I suspect that this is the last time that we’ll be seeing that specific iteration of the View Askewniverse headlining its own film.

And that’s all I’ve got to say about Clerks III... primarily because I’ve pretty much said all I wanted to but, also because I’ve now started tearing up again remembering it and it’s hard to see the screen when your eyes are all smeary. If you are into Kevin Smith’s movies... and you really should be, they’re a shot of pure joy... then you should really love and, will probably be very moved, by this latest installment of the franchise. And do yourself a favour and stay through the end credits to hear more, heartfelt ramblings from the writer/director.

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