If there was ever a film designed to question convention, "Rubber" is that film. French writer and director Quentin Dupieux manages to take an inanimate object, instill in it sentience, then have it roll around and blow stuff up. Encapsulated in its own little world, "Rubber" is a film that exemplifies absurdity and doesn't try to be anything else; although the intended result was indeed achieved, the film suffers from its limited premise. Following a snazzy intro to set the flick in motion, we're given a slightly plodding film with a few laugh out loud moments that ends way sooner than it should.
'Rubber' has no plot to speak of, though I suppose that's the point. The film opens with our eponymous tire becoming aware of its abilities to blow stuff up and roll around. Much like a child learning to walk, it takes some time to get used to being a tire capable of self-propelling, teetering on either end until it falls to the ground, letting fly a cloud of dust and dirt. Undeterred, it gets back up and keeps on truckin', ultimately rolling into town and trying his new-found powers on a poor, unsuspecting traveler. Throughout all of this, we're joined by a second audience within the film, watching the events unfold through binoculars as if they're watching a movie themselves. Head-explodiness ensues.
'Rubber' is delightfully meta. From the get go we're told in an opening monologue that the film has "no reason" for existing, a cry often lobbied at the plethora of remakes that have saturated the horror landscape. Its existence is supported solely by the notion that it's the first film to feature a psychokinetic tire wreaking havoc across a desert landscape with a major character that simply doesn't want to be in the movie. This is buffered by its utter absurdity, featuring ridiculous and oftentimes hilarious non-sequiturs that exist solely to let you know that what you're watching is just plain weirdness and nothing more.
Unfortunately for it, while absurdity is all well and good, it's the only thing that drives the film. Clocking in at approximately eighty minutes, 'Rubber' would have worked exceptionally well as a short as opposed to a feature. It often plods forth with absolutely nothing being done to further what constitutes the story, resulting in long gaps of little more than a tire rolling around looking for a next victim. Once it finds one, it leaves a trail of destruction and brains in its wake. And that's pretty much it. Once the climax arrives and the credits role, you're left with your mouth agape and looking at your watch wondering hour eighty minutes just passed.
Although the tire is the principle focus, 'Rubber' features a solid performance by multiple Tony Award-winning actor Stephen Spinella as Lieutenant Chad, an intrepid cop seemingly aware that he's in a movie governed by its internal viewers. Although there are other characters in the film, Lt. Chad is the only one that features a modicum of depth, as well as providing a bit of humor throughout the film. Also worthy of praise is Jack Plotnick, who plays the eternally frustrated and nameless Accountant in charge of overseeing the day's festivities. The remainder of the cast is essentially tire fodder, for it is the tire that steals the spotlight. Despite the inherent difficulties associated with giving a giant piece of rubber emotion, Dupieux gave the tire a delightful sense of inquisitiveness as it rolled across the terrain exploring and investigating the various objects it comes across: a bottle, a tin can and an unfortunate rabbit and crow. It may be a tire (and a small one at that), but its personality shines throughout.
The score, composed by electronic musician Gaspard Augé of the band Justice and the M. Oizo, a pseudonym for director Dupieux, is a perfectly appropriate throwback to scores of the eighties, featuring a tight and heavily melodic synth sound that has you humming along as our sentient tire blows up heads all over the place. In the end it stands out in a film that possesses an abundance of potential and some hilarious moments, yet in the long run simply falls flat.