Rubber is the story of Robert, an inanimate tire that has been abandoned in the desert and suddenly and inexplicably comes to life. As Robert roams the bleak landscape, he discovers that he possesses terrifying telepathic powers that give him the ability to destroy anything he wishes. At first content to prey on small desert creatures, his attention soon turns to humans, especially a beautiful and mysterious woman who crosses his path. Leaving a swath of destruction, Robert becomes a chaotic force to be reckoned with, and truly a movie villain for the ages.
“You probably never gave it a thought, but all great films, without exception, contain an important element of “no reason”. And you know why? Because life itself is filled with “no reason”. Why can’t we see the air all around us? No reason. Why are we always thinking? No reason. Why do some people love sausages and other people hate sausages? No fucking reason.”
That pretty much sums ‘Rubber’ up. Sometimes you watch a movie and you think “Uh… what the…?”, “What in the world was that?!”, “How the hell does this make any sense?!” or even “WTF?!!!” – you can’t help but wonder what kind of crack the filmmakers were on (the cheap variety, no doubt ) when they cobbled their “oeuvre” together. Sometimes it might even stir derisive laughter, if not outright disgust.
And this is why ‘Rubber’ begins with a small nod to the absurdities of life and, consequently, in cinema. It introduces itself with a sequence both nonsensical and humourous specifically to warn the audience that it is not trying to portray reality, that it offers instead semi-abstract entertainment. And then it firmly tells us that there is no reason for any of it other than for the sheer mindless pleasure of it.
How else could they have set up and justified a film such as ‘Rubber’? It is, after all, a road story about a rogue tire on a rampage; the picture’s protagonist, otherwise known as Robert, is a natural born tire! There is absolutely no way to explain it, make sense of it, or even try to keep a straight face when telling this tale – so the only way to permit the audience to accept the premise is to set it up as they did.
For me, the set up was the highlight of the movie; I loved the message and the delivery. I had a total blast watching the cops drive up, deliberately knocking over chairs for no good reason whatsoever and then seeing the Sheriff climb out of the trunk, grab a glass of water from a colleague, pour it and begin to ramble on. It was nonsensical in the most pleasing of ways – absurd, theatrical, and served up with a wink and a knowing smile.
Unfortunately, after that sequence wraps up and ‘Rubber’ finally gears up good and proper, as Robert plundered onward like hell on wheel, I felt that it offered gradually diminishing returns – it was more of the same, and my enthusiasm waned. Thankfully, the filmmakers attempted to keep ‘Rubber’ rolling along by padding it with a story within a story about people watching Robert’s adventures from afar, as though they were watching the movie “live”.
This was an amusing touch, but watching this dozen or so people commenting on the proceedings only had so much appeal – thus, after a while, their story was railroaded by an outrageous plot twist of its own. It was all meant in fun, but it didn’t fulfill its promise. Still, if not for this element, the film’s runtime would have been a third of its current length; after all, there’s only so much that anyone can do with a lunatic tire out on telekinetic murder spree.
Naturally, Robert is not the most engaging character that you will find on screen. While this may pose problems for some viewers, I found that they made it (him?) expressive enough that he was enjoyable to watch. And, anyway, his outrageously psychotic attacks were a hoot. Otherwise, by far the best character and actor is the Sheriff, played by Stephen Spinella; in Spinella’s hands, Lieutenant Chad was droll, sympathetic and smart. Chad was also a connector in that he was both in the film and was a spectator as well, commenting and providing insight.
But, all in all, I found ‘Rubber’ disappointing. Don’t get me wrong: I had fun watching it. However, I had hoped for something more; ‘Rubber’ isn’t nearly as clever as it would like to be and not as delightfully nutty as I would have preferred. In other words, my ideal would have been at least an 8.0, if not an 8.5 – not a “mere” 7.5.
Frankly, there’s enough goodness in ‘Rubber’ for a short film, or maybe a trailer, but it over-stayed its welcome as a feature-length film; by midway through, the point that the filmmakers were trying to make was largely forgotten, left behind in Robert’s dust. ‘Rubber’ is an amusing enough film, but I don’t know just how much mileage the DVD will get before I tyre of it.