Rubber (2010 movie) review…

Rubber (2010 movie) review after the break…

Rubber (2010 movie) review…

In movie parlance, “the fourth wall” is a term that means the barrier between the audience watching the film and the characters in the film itself. It is the boom mike just barely out of the frame of the picture. It is the firearm that fires blanks at a person wearing dye packs meant to look like bullet wounds. “The fourth wall” is the mechanism that neither the audience or the characters of a film sees but needs in order to make the reality of the film possible and to suspend the characters of a film into an alternate reality where a masked serial killer can really survive a gun shot to a head or a hero can really jump out of an airplane, put on a parachute in mid-air and open it before impacting the ground. Without the “fourth wall,” the audience can’t see the man put on the parachute and without the “fourth wall,” physics dictates that the man won’t be able to put the parachute on at all.

To be certain, a lot of movies have broken the fourth wall both openly and triumphantly. The much-maligned Arnold Schwarzenegger film, “Last Action Hero,” was a film all about breaking the fourth wall when a movie action hero and villain enter “real life.” The Mel Brooks classic, “History of the World, Part I,” also broke the fourth wall to comic effect. Cartoons frequently break the fourth wall, usually for comedic or pop culture reference effect. Whenever any character turns to the camera and utters a remark, the fourth wall cracks.

Significantly, the fourth wall is often broken quietly in a majority of films simply to allow for proper camera angles. Walls are removed from rooms so that characters can be filmed. Voice overs, close-ups… The looser the definition of the “fourth wall” gets, the more movies that break it in order for the movie to reach it’s dramatic, horrific or comedic potential.

“Rubber” is a 2010 movie that, quite frankly, doesn’t take kindly to the “fourth wall,” going so far as to openly mock it within the first moments of the film. The characters directly addresses the audience. An audience inside the film (sort of like it’s own built-in MST3K crowd) openly comments on the absurdity of the events in the unfolding film. At one point, the in-movie audience even interacts with the characters.

“Rubber” tells the absurd tale of a rimless old tire that develops deadly psycho-kinetic powers. Yup, you read that right. The tire, predictably, goes on a killing spree while developing an obsession with a young woman traveling through the area. A police department with a self-aware lieutenant gamely chases after the tire, even after the “movie” should be over but isn’t because of one in-movie audience member who won’t succumb to eating purposely poisoned food.

The film has a boldness about it that should, at the least, be applauded. Confidence is a dangerous double-edged sword but, for the first 80% of it’s length, the film wields it effectively enough to elevate the film into minor cult-film status. The absurdity of the film can’t be lost on genre fans – Just replace the tire with a person and one would have a serviceable film about a serial killer. All of the familiar cliches are there – The near-nudity (not of the tire, of course, but of the female lead) in one scene, the non-violent confrontation with a child in another, the desperate execution of a last-minute strategy by the male lead to end the serial killer’s terror in another. There’s even a humorous scene where the lieutenant attempts to get his police department to become self-aware that they are in a movie, only to realize that the movie is still “going.”

Unfortunately, the film does not follow it’s own warped logic – The last “audience member” dies but the deadly tire lives afterwards, even being resurrected once the lieutenant shoots the tire “to death.” The film also doesn’t make clear why there were audience members to begin with or what the characters would do once the movie “ended.”

I have no problem with a film breaking the fourth wall but breaking the fourth wall doesn’t mean that the rules of the movie are no longer valid. By continuing the absurdity past it’s logical ending point, the film loses much of it’s impact. Gone is the clever commentary of film making only to replaced by the annoyance of an anti-climax. This is the classic case of an effective comedy skit being unfairly pulled into being a mediocre full-length movie.

“Rubber” is a fairly entertaining experiment up until the audience member meets the cast; With a little more script discipline, the film might have been elevated to cult status. As is, the film deflates quickly towards the end under it’s own quirkiness and falls flat.


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