Rubber (2010) Movie Review

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I totally expected writer/director Quentin Dupieux’s 2010 horror/comedy “Rubber” to be completely bizarre. After all, you can’t go into a motion picture about a murderous psychokinetic tire with your mainstream mentalities leading the way. However, as strange and unusual as I had anticipated this flick to be, nothing could have really prepared me for the cinematic lunacy contained within this delirious 80-minute jaunt through gore-soaked absurdist horror. And I’m not kidding when I say this movie is weird. Seriously weird. Overwhelmingly weird, so much so that most people probably won’t know what to do with it. Truth be told, I’m not exactly sure how I feel about the whole bloody affair. While a part of me rather enjoyed Dupieux’s oddball endeavor, another section of my brain can’t shake the sensation of abject disappointment.

Don’t get me wrong — there’s definitely a lot to like about “Rubber”. The performances are solid and suitably peculiar, the special effects are top-notch, and Dupieux’s dry sense of humor permeates throughout the entire picture. However, about halfway through the flick, you begin to wonder if the premise would have worked better as a short film. The spectator subplot seems to stick out like a sore thumb, leaving you with the impression that it was used merely to pad this admittedly thin storyline into a full-length feature. Again, it’s not that either section is inherently awful, but they certainly don’t gel as well as the filmmakers would like to think they do. I’ll attempt to explain.

The movie opens with a bold declaration: There is absolutely no reason for the events which are about to transpire. This unexpected information is delivered directly to the camera, as are several examples of things that happen — or, in some cases, don’t happen — in major motion pictures for absolutely no reason whatsoever. That’s perfectly fine by me — I don’t necessarily need to watch a picture with a full-on purpose, especially when I’m delving into the wonky world of low-budget horror. After setting the tone for things to come, we discover that this helpful individual is actually addressing a small group of people who have gathered in the desert to watch a movie. Before getting started, they’re all handed a pair of binoculars and directed to a cast their eyes towards a point somewhere on the horizon. Once they’ve settled in, the rest of the story begins to unfold.

Cut to a grungy tire buried in the sand. After shaking off the dust and quickly mastering the fine art of rolling around on its own accord, this circular menace begins to traverse the barren landscape. It doesn’t take long for the tire’s destructive nature to manifest itself in a couple of different ways. After savagely crushing a helpless water bottle and an icky scorpion, this rubbery villain encounters a discarded beer bottle, an object it cannot destroy simply by rolling across it. Visibility annoyed, the tire begins to vibrate, and a strange sound fills the air. The bottle suddenly explodes, obliterated by the wheel’s mysterious powers. It’s easy to see that the tire has homicide on the brain, and nobody is safe from its unmitigated rage. If you’re a fan of exploding heads — and I’m almost certain that you are — then the ensuing mayhem will suit your morbid sensibilities quite well. Assuming, of course, you can handle the rest of the film’s deranged offerings.

Quentin Dupieux’s decision to jump back and forth between the spectators and the titular monster is puzzling. The concept itself is inherently bizarre, so why needlessly complicate matters by incorporating scenes that only detract from the main reason we’ve signed up for this adventure? I wanted to watch a movie about the misadventures of a maladjusted, misguided killer tire, damn it, not a self-aware, self-referrential comedy that feels the need to constantly wink at its audience. We know the plot is stupid, Dupieux — that’s exactly why we’re here. What purpose did this subplot serve? Was it included simply to fill time? Did the director feel that the premise couldn’t stand on its own two legs? Then again, it’s fruitless to search for answers, as the director has already told you that the film you’re watching is an homage to “no reason”. Kind of a cop out if you ask me.

Maybe it all comes down to expectations. Had I gone into the picture knowing that Dupieux was attempting to blur the line between fantasy and reality, between audience and actor, perhaps these heady concepts wouldn’t have left such a negative impression on me. I was anticipating something a little more straightforward and uncomplicated, something a bit more creature feature and less hipster comedy. After reading this review, I’m sure the filmmakers will point their fingers in my general direction and have a good laugh. They’ll also say that I’ve missed the point entirely, that my low-brow cinematic tastes couldn’t handle the ideas and concepts on-display. And perhaps they’re right. However, I wouldn’t have thought that a movie about a killer tire with psychokinetic powers would be that hard to screw up. To write off “Rubber” entirely is a stupid move, but you’d better be ready to accept this ridiculous flick for what it is. Flaws and all.

Quentin Dupieux (director) / Quentin Dupieux (screenplay)
CAST: Stephen Spinella … Lieutenant Chad
Jack Plotnick … Accountant
Wings Hauser … Man in wheelchair
Roxane Mesquida … Sheila
Ethan Cohn … Film buff Ethan
Charley Koontz … Film buff Charley
Daniel Quinn … Dad
Devin Brochu … Son
Hayley Holmes … Teenager Cindy
Haley Ramm … Teenager Fiona
Cecelia Antoinette … Black woman
David Bowe … M. Hughes
Remy Thorne … Zach


Author: Todd Rigney

Todd was raised on a steady diet of Hollywood blockbusters, late-night Cinemax programming, and USA’s “Up All Night,” which may explain why his taste in movies is more than a little questionable. When he isn’t providing news and reviews for Beyond Hollywood, he can be found lounging lazily on his couch, perched in front of his television, or dwelling in places where direct sunlight can be easily avoided. He's happily married, in his 30's, and totally badass. If you'd like to reach Todd, you can follow him on Twitter or send him email/scoops to todd (at) beyondhollywood.com.
  • JackCrow

    Great movie, beautiful shots.
    Reminded me of Maximum Overdrive (1986), in all the good ways.

  • Greg Levrault

    Thought I’d add my SPOILER analysis here, to see if it helps anybody on the fence make up their mind about the movie.
    “Rubber” is two movies: the ‘killer tire’ story that made it on the posters, and the rebellion of a movie’s characters against the story they’re forced to tell. [Imagine watching one of your favorite guilty pleasures for the umpteenth time, when one of the characters turns to the screen and goes, "Oh, no, I'm not getting killed this time!"] Instead of directly breaking through the fourth wall, like Groucho Marx and Ferris Bueller, the characters of the ‘audience’ behind the velvet rope serve as a surrogate.
    In this case, the sheriff and accountant characters attempt to thwart the cycle of the story they have to tell to the audience. When one audience member survives, the characters have to see through their fate. (during the end-credits, it seems like the filmmakers run an outtake of the opening speech, except they include a shot of the velvet rope, with no one behind it this time. The accountant and a previously-headless cop are alive again. Everyone’s returned to their places…)
    Yeah, this is the type of gimmick you’d expect from French New Wave films, and you can argue whether the ‘no reason’ speech is meant to describe the story that the sheriff is trying to escape, or “Rubber” itself. That’s what makes it great, to me…