My excitement at the prospect of a murderous car tire was short lived. Here’s my review of the 2010 horror mishap, ‘Rubber’.
When fellow Cloudburst author, Kenny Field, mentioned a film about a car tire that becomes sentient and goes round murdering people, I was immediately excited to watch and review it. Dumb or unconventional concepts often bring out creativity in filmmakers because they open up doors – not doors that were closed, doors that didn’t even exist before.
Some of my favourite films are based on really strange and seemingly nonsensical premises: a film made entirely of Lego, a film about a thirty-year-old man who is only know realising his entire life is a TV show, a film where a real heist is carried out within someone’s dream. I was hoping that a murderous tire could be added to that list.
However, I found this film tried to deliberately be bad but just turned out to be boring and severely underwhelming.
There were a lot of disappointments in this film, but I am glad to say that the one thing that brought me to it, the tire itself, was not one of them. I actually liked the character of the tire, whose name is Robert. The way he is portrayed by the cinematography and the editing makes him a hilarious, devious character. I genuinely laughed out loud at several points thanks to some of the genius timing that this character has.
We first encounter Robert about ten minutes into the film. He is lying in the sand, amongst other rubbish, just off a desert road, somewhere out in the California desert. He slowly gains his ability to stand upright and proceeds to learn how to travel by rolling along the ground. This is a great sequence. It is perfectly paced and has absolutely no dialogue or exposition. You just witness this tire learning how to live with its new abilities.
I also want to point out that the cinematography of this sequence was fantastic. It is a really beautiful piece of film to watch and it is very well composed. The rest of the film is also pleasing to the eye, and I have to give credit to the director, Quentin Dupieux, for this. The film has its downfalls, but the cinematography was never one of them.
Once the Robert has learnt to travel, he also learns that he can destroy objects by focusing on them really hard. As he does so, he begins to wobble until the object explodes. He kills several small animals that he comes across in the desert, and then lies down beside the road and sleeps.
If just this part had been isolated as a short, I would have loved it. Unfortunately, this is a feature-length film with a lot of rubbish in it, not just an abandoned tire. Robert proceeds along the road and murders several people in a small series of desert locations. He does this by exploding their heads. He eventually becomes a suspect in the murder cases and is hunted down by the police. They catch him right at the end, shoot him dead and leave the scene.
Robert then reincarnates himself as a child’s tricycle and rolls on down the road, bringing other tires to life. He gathers an army of sentient tires and rolls on towards the nearest city.
I never thought I’d say this, but the most convincing performance from the entire film was that of the rubber tire.
And, by the way, even if you don’t mind spoilers – and reading that last part seemed to spoil it for you – it didn’t actually spoil that much. I will now go into detail about the rest of the film and why it was a waste of time.
The Rest of the Film
The film begins with an artistic shot of some wooden dining chairs out in the desert, randomly scattered along a desert track. A car approaches from the distance, knocking down and destroying every chair on the way.
A police officer steps out of the vehicle and looks directly into the camera. This is Sheriff Chad. He will be mentioned a lot. Chad begins by explaining, to the camera, that there are many films out there that are based on “no reason”. From this point, I correctly assumed that this entire film will be based on that premise. Everything in the film will happen for “no reason”. While this is a somewhat meta outlook on the film industry, it does not excuse this film for not even trying to make sense. Besides, there is so much that this opening monologue gets wrong.
Yes, there are films that have things happen for seemingly no reason, but you cannot base an entire film on that. Actions must have consequences, characters must develop and plots must progress. Rubber is filled with actions without consequence, characters who are barely skin-deep and a lack of a plot entirely.
I won’t go into more of the events of this film, because they’re not interesting and I’d get bored trying to find something to say about them. I’ll just give you some background of how the film works.
Sheriff Chad knows he’s in a film; however, it’s not the film that you are watching. There are a bunch of random strangers gathered in the desert who are watching the events of the film taking place, whilst also being inside the setting of the film. It’s like watching a play but on-location. I’m gonna call these people the Observers. Chad is aware of the Observers and that he is an actor, performing for them. The rest of the characters are also actors, but they are unaware of this. They believe that the entire thing is real. It’s a bit strange, I know, but it’s about to get even more confusing.
There is a character called the Accountant. He also knows that the Observers are there to watch a performance. He’s not part of the performance. His job was to bring the Observers to the set and make sure that they watched the entire thing. The performance, by the way, takes place over several days from the Observers’ perspective. So, they’re out here in the desert and none of them complain about how long it lasts or the fact that they have to sleep out in the middle of the desert with no shelter, water or connection to the outside world.
The Observers get hungry on the second day of the performance, and the Accountant brings them a cooked turkey. All except one of the Observers fight over the turkey and stuff their faces. A few hours later, they all fall dead. The Accountant had poisoned the turkey.
Sheriff Chad, knowing about the entire plan, assumes that the poison has killed all the Observers by now, and breaks character. He begins explaining to the rest of the characters how none of this is real. He even gets a fellow officer to shoot him in the chest to prove a point. He sustains no wounds, only fake blood and bullet holes in his shirt. The Accountant then informs Sheriff Chad that one of the Observers, the Wheelchair Man, didn’t eat the turkey. He is still watching.
Now that the Wheelchair Man knows that the Accountant had planned to kill him, he denies all further food offerings from him. The Accountant eventually gets bored and eats the food himself and dies.
At the end of the film, the Wheelchair Man enters the current scene and interacts with the characters, telling them to get on with it and just finish the story. It’s at that point that Sheriff Chad gets frustrated that the whole thing makes no sense and just shoots Robert the tire to end the film.
Of course, as you know, Robert reincarnated himself as a tricycle. He then kills Wheelchair Man and continues as I described earlier. Of course, Wheelchair Man was an Observer, not a character. He was not supposed to be able to be killed. This begs the question: “Was Robert real this whole time?”
Now, if that sounded pretty bad to you, you’re right. There is no sense, no point and no reason to be interested. It’s not intelligent, it’s not thought-provoking and it’s certainly not something I’d recommend.
I give Rubber a car tire out of ten.