A brand-less, sentient tire named Robert goes on a murderous rampage after discovering its psychokinetic powers in a quiet, sleepy town in the California desert. In the distance, a small group of spectators watch the mayhem through binoculars and critique the unexplained nonsense while a scrawny, fidgety accountant (Jack Plotnick) cares for their needs.
If that quick description raises more eyebrows than chuckles, then 'Rubber' is not likely to please or entertain. The black horror comedy — yeah, that caught me by surprise as well — is the unfortunate sort which looks better on paper than on the big screen. And it is a great concept piece that claims to celebrate the unobserved "No Reason" aspect of filmmaking, as explained by the local sheriff (Stephen Spinella) orchestrating the whole thing. But sadly, this absurdist diegesis stumbles over various pratfalls and becomes a "no reason" unto itself.
There are a few points of interest which hint at the plot suppressing some vague purpose or rationality, but they are as quickly forgotten — or intentionally disregarded — as they are displayed. When Robert — by the way, its name is never mentioned in the movie but shown during end credits — first comes into being, it learns of its psychic abilities while cleaning up the careless waste of humans. Later, it rolls to a junkyard and witnesses a tire Holocaust that pollutes the atmosphere. However, as audiences were told at the very beginning, these possibilities go nowhere since there is no reason for any of it, which technically means there is no reason for this movie either.
We are forced to plod along much like the story and simply accept everything we see as is. We never learn the sheriff's nefarious motives, even as he begins to grow weary of the entire escapade. It's one of the very few times we are allowed to sympathize with any of the characters. We have no idea why the accountant felt compelled to poison the spectators — what could be considered the only interested party — or how the disgruntled man in the wheelchair (Wings Hauser) knew to not eat the turkey. And why do filmmakers mislead us with a love interest (Roxane Mesquida) who literally does nothing of significance?
The low-budget flick comes from musician turned filmmaker Quentin Dupieux, whose European hit is popular amongst electro connoisseurs, and is for the most part a fun cerebral experiment on the magic of movies. His film explores an area that is almost always overlooked by everyone, but also easily explained as the unconscious creative choices which makes storytelling possible, especially in movies. He definitely earns bonus points for carefully deconstructing the vital relationship of spectator and art object, a crucial component for the plausibility and success of any illusion. Basically, Robert exists because we, the viewers with willing gullibility, allow for his existence.
'Rubber' also has its moments, offering a few funny sequences and dialogue, but they are regrettably thinly scattered throughout. Its attempt at being a self-aware B-feature works in a few spots and even reaches for the stars by intellectualizing some of its bolder notions. Yet these endeavors at insight and analysis fall short of anything close to meaningful or perceptive because the movie often seems like it struggles to achieve a worthwhile conclusion. Clocking in at a brisk 82 minutes, Dupieux's 'Rubber' — now that just sounds wrong — ultimately feels like it's 60 minutes too long.
The Blu-ray: Vital Disc Stats
Magnolia Home Entertainment and Magnet Releasing debut 'Rubber' to Blu-ray on a Region A locked, BD25 disc, housed in the standard blue keepcase. A series of skippable previews are shown at startup and afterwards, goes to a normal menu selection with music and a still from the movie.
Always the surreal experimentalist, Dupieux shot the entire movie on a Canon digital camera, which produces a razor-sharp picture with a very narrow depth of field. Because of this, the 1080p/AVC MPEG-4 encode (1.85:1) looks phenomenal on Blu-ray, often displaying some of the best, highly-detailed images we've seen available in HD.
With pitch-perfect, consistent contrast, the transfer exposes every bit of texture and blemish in clothing, hair and the faces of actors. We can clearly make out every granule in the dirt, plainly see every piece of gravel used in the road, and practically inspect every detail in the desert foliage. Intense, inky black levels add a rich, crisp clarity to the video with a terrific three-dimensional appeal while colors are full-bodied and bright throughout with vivid primaries.
Unfortunately, the camera used comes with a very visible drawback — an artifact which causes a significant distraction and keeps the video presentation from earning a reference quality rating. Due to the camera having some inherent sampling issues, the digital-to-digital transfer exhibits several instances of aliasing throughout and some observable moiré patterns in the finer lines. For the most part, the picture looks fantastic, but the video anomalies are sadly a constant interference from its enjoyment.
The audio, on the other hand, is much cleaner and reliable from beginning to end. The only issues are the result of a rather inactive sound design, which is surprisingly unfortunate in a movie this self-aware. Still, the DTS-HD Master Audio track seems to stay true to the original recording and deliver sharply rendered vocals, making every silly comment from the characters perfectly heard. Dynamic range is not extensive and the soundstage is maintained almost entirely in the center of the screen; however, the lossless mix exhibits plenty of rich, clarity detail. Low-frequency effects feel somewhat anemic and bland, but there is a bit of bass present to give the few action sequences some weight. Surround speakers are mostly silent, keeping audience attention strictly to the front.
The collection of special features are the same set from its DVD counterpart.
'Rubber' is the story about a sentient tire named Robert who goes on a killing spree for no apparent reason, which is precisely the point. Quentin Dupieux's film is an absurdist comedy of the highest caliber which celebrates that aspect of storytelling where minor, arbitrary details function without reason. The intellectual B-movie works for a while but soon looses it own reason for existing and falls flat by the end. The Blu-ray features an excellent video presentation with some noticeable problems and the audio delivers what is adequately expected of it. Supplements are easy throwaway interviews which add little to the conversation presented by the movie, making the overall package only worthy of a rental.