Former soldier Jack has given up his life of violence in favor of a life of tranquility, meditating in the High Desert, working as an occasional handyman, and chatting idly with his Native American comrade Mo. Jack is a one-eyed Zen master, calm, cool and collected, but the violence he keeps locked beneath the surface is about to bubble to the top.
Jack accidentally finds himself involved with Ella, a pretty young mother and her crank-addicted husband Herman, who is deep in debt to Buzz, the local crime lord. When Herman can't produce the money he owes, Buzz comes a-calling, and the dynamic duo of Jack and Mo are forced to intervene.
To call Jack a modern day Billy Jack might be pushing things a bit, but there are definitely elements of that character to be found here. The Billy Jack franchise was a decidedly serious (albeit sometimes ridiculous) series, whereas Dust Up falls back on toilet humor a few too many times. I'm all for the few comedic elements in the film, but the dick and fart jokes seemed out of place and rather tiresome.
The poster and the premise may seem reminiscent of a sleazy 1970's picture (and indeed the hissing, slashing character of Mr. Lizard could have been written for Michael Berryman), but this is shot with a considerably modern flair with none of the throwback, retrosploitation trappings that you would expect.
It is fabulously scored, well acted and competently shot. The character of Mo is one of my favorite creations in recent memory, making a nice counterpoint to Jack's silent and brooding self. I thoroughly enjoyed this movie--much more than I was anticipating, actually. I just wished that it would have taken itself more seriously at times and not always have gone for the easy chuckle.