REVIEW: The Joke's on Us in Rubber, a Movie About a Killer Tire

Movieline Score:

You've really pulled off a triumph, of sorts, when the most charismatic character in your movie is a discarded tire. But Rubber, a quasi-exploitation horror film directed by French DJ, record producer, filmmaker and raconteur Quentin Dupieux, stops just short of making that tire a star. This is no ordinary tire; it has telekinetic powers and a great deal of pent-up anger. But Dupieux's camera loves that tire only the littlest bit. He's more interested in all the things that make his movie uninteresting, chiefly its faux-intellectual, thimble-deep exploration of audience's expectations and willingness to be duped.

Rubber opens with a decidedly unphotogenic nerd (Jack Plotnick) standing amid a scrubby landscape near a dirt road, his outstretched arms laden with binoculars. Suddenly, a sheriff arrives on the scene in a most unusual fashion (he's played by Stephen Spinella) and delivers a monologue to camera about how, in movies, lots of things happen for "no reason" and still, we accept them. The subtext is, those of us who love and believe in movies are dupes. After all, we've just sat ourselves down to watch a movie about a killer tire, haven't we?

It turns out that those binoculars are about to be distributed to an "audience," consisting of viewers of all ages; they'll stand on a ridge and watch as the "movie" unfolds. (Rubber is a movie filled with quotation marks, so I'm going to take the liberty of using them too.) The story they'll see involves a tire that slowly rouses itself from a junkyard and, after triumphing over a few random objects (a plastic bottle) and critters (a scorpion) by rolling over them, realizes that it can kill bigger prey the same way Amy Irving explodes John Cassavetes' head in The Fury, albeit in a far less operatic fashion.

This is the little demon tire that could, one that actually has a gender -- it's consistently referred to as "he." The scenes in which he slakes his thirst for blood and stalks a tough gal in short shorts (Roxane Mesquida) have some wit and a dash of truckstop grandness. The finest moment in Rubber is the one in which our fine vulcanized friend follows his pretty vixen target right to the open door of her motel room, where he peeps in -- with his invisible eyes -- and watches as she strips down and slips into the shower. Dupieux -- who wrote and shot the film himself, and also did the editing -- has some cinematic good sense. He knows how to frame a lone, rolling tire in a desolate landscape so that we're convinced we're actually watching something dynamic. He nods, in particular, to '70s exploitation cheapies, and his approach is sometimes playful and affectionate.

When it isn't doggedly instructional, that is. Rubber could have been a modest horror novelty, a wicked, malevolent version of The Red Balloon. But Dupieux apparently didn't think the exploits of a killer tire would be enough to sustain a movie, and so he had to overinflate his picture with puny ideas masquerading as big ones: The players try to break the fourth wall and step out of the movie, only to realize they can't -- it's the equivalent of Dupieux waving his hand in front of our faces and intoning ghoulishly, "What's fiction and what's reality?" The "audience" in the movie is first starved and then killed with a poison turkey, though they apparently deserve their fate because they descended upon the bird like a horde of crazed zombies. Dupieux's idea, apparently, is that movie audiences are so stupid they'll consume anything, and the more tickets he sells for this arch little piece of junk, the more he'll be proved right. If I were you, I'd refuse to give him that satisfaction.


  • Jorge says:

    Thank you Stephanie! I saw "Rubber" at the Vancouver Film Festival and stroke me as a ridiculous vanity project. I could not understand the buzz around it. It's just so stupid! And boring towards the end.

  • SD says:

    I loved the trailer and was really looking forward to a great cheesy exploitation trash horror movie.
    What I didn't want was some meta navel gazing about the relationship between a filmmaker and his audience.
    I was so disappointed.

  • epochd says:

    i couldn't get over the fact that i was watching a movie that managed to be about a killer tire AND be pretentious. The last act of the movie (and fate of the final 'audience' member) is essentially a big F/U to the audience for having wanted to see it in the first place.

  • NP says:

    At least the soundtrack is sick?

  • Chasmosaur says:

    Watched it on HDNet last night. I would have loved to have actually seen a movie about a homicidal tire - the other stuff was just so WTF. We did love the opening monologue, though.

  • Madame Taunt says:

    I guess I'm the only human who thought this movie was great, which is fine. I guess I didn't take it to mean so much that audiences are so stupid they'll consume anything, rather that they can't just enjoy something inherently ridiculous without analyzing all the fun out of it. And really, a killer tire isn't anymore ridiculous than giant blue Smurfs on a future planet or Ashton Kutcher's existence.

  • Audience says:

    I actually thought this movie was quite clever. Quite apart from the fact that each scene is quite beautifully shot - the move invites the kind of suspension-of-disbelief so absent in mainstream cinema.
    Too many films, whether for narrative reasons or otherwise, hamper their storyline by justifying it.
    Rubber is about a tire - a mentally immature, yet oddly lovable serial killer. It can move, its having some fun, and it makes squishy things go pop.
    Are you alone and want an entertaining waste of a couple of hours? Watch this, mull over it for ten minutes, smile and be on your way.
    Are you wanting a some trash to stare at with your mates? Head to Blockbuster

  • epochd says:

    Did you see this movie? it actually doesn't invite suspension of disbelief at all. it literally constantly reminds you that you're watching a movie AND comments on the act of watching movies.
    "Too many films, whether for narrative reasons or otherwise, hamper their storyline by justifying it."
    what were all those meta-conversations in rubber if not justifying the films existence.

  • Audience2 says:

    I thought the movie was very clever. It was ridiculous but funny. The movie is a parody of how audiences react and therefore the movie is real based on reaction. If there is no audience as depicted by the death of the audience by eating poisoned turkey, and therefore there is no audience to watch the film being made, then the film ceases to exist as real.

  • angie says:

    I thought this film was entertaining. I laughed so hard I cried because me and my family just thought it was that stupid. My son thought the movie had good graphics. I would recommend this movie to anyone who is entertained to plotlessness.

  • Harrison says:

    People need to stop bashing this movie. It is pure genius and something finally refreshing. The "no reason" and randomness to it is just hysterical at times. Also what are people talking about it being boring at the end. That is just crap. I thought if anything the first 10 mins or more of a tire just rolling around was the most boring but it soon got entertaining.
    People need to stop bashing NEW types of films, it is what we need! Ask yourself, a brand new type of hysterical random movie like Rubber, or do you want a re-make feature film that is just the same thing as the original with different actors and newer media. Screw it. I could say right now that Rubber is the best move of all time. But.. Ferris Bueller's Day Off is up there to. One of my favs haha.

  • willow potter says:

    This movie is more pretentious than David Lynch doing a meta-biography on the life of Morrisey. Nonsensical schlock.

  • The only thing better than this movie is reading these nonsensical, over-analyzed "reviews" from pseudo-intellectuals who think they were somehow wronged by having seen a film. Thank you for proving everything this movie is about.

  • View Point says:

    Movie was crap. It seems like just about anyone can direct nonsense and it would be appreciated as art..real crap..End of story