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Rated 3.02 stars
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ReelTalk Movie Reviews
Rubber Soul
by Donald Levit

Although part of the jokey satire is that it freely calls attention to its satirical jokiness, there is laughing justice in that Rubber will be released on April Fools’ Day, following five weeks of VOD availability.

Filmed in three months in California, with a digital Canon 5D to be kinescoped to 35mm, this low-budgeter takes off on movies as illusion. For example, there are in-film “Spectators” who observe the central action, in one case camcording it “for my wife” in defiance of copyright law, and who become a parallel action tied to what they observe partly through a nerdy Accountant (Jack Plotnick) and a semi-director stand-in in a wheelchair (Wings Hauser).

Rubbing noses in screen sleight of hand is one way of fostering yet another, different sort of illusion. Writer, director, cinematographer and (as Mr. Oizo) co-music composer Quentin Dupieux also continues fright films’ malevolent inanimate objects like a 1958 Plymouth, children’s dolls and ventriloquists’ dummies, video cassettes and cell phones. Mad magazine once posited Flesh Garden’s worst enemy as, not Ming or mole-men, mushroom-men, fish- or bird-men, but the horrible men-men; just so. Rubber’s ever more powerful, arbitrarily fatal, natural leader of others of its kind, and reincarnation-able enemy of plastic and glass bottles, tin cans, jackrabbits, crows and human beings, is a nothing-out-of-the-ordinary discarded tire.

One of the links between “reality”-illusion as story and stuff of Dream Factory flicks (indeed, of any story) is County Sheriff’s office Lieutenant Chad (Stephen Spinella), who orders a deputy to shoot him, only to realize that he then has three bloody bullet holes in his torso even while he continues to function normally. At the start and at the end, he cites some half-dozen “excellent” movies and their overlooked inconsistencies. Thus, “Ladies and Gentlemen, the film you are about to see pays homage to that most powerful of elements in film and life: ‘no reason.’”

Like bird watchers anticipating a rare scrub-desert sighting, a mixed bag strain through field glasses bicycled in by the Accountant. Sleepless in sleeping bags, shivering and starving -- Film Fan Ethan (Ethan Cohn) wonders about cannibalism -- they catch what they are waiting for: the “birth” of the tire from its bed of sand in a sparse dump. The newborn totters unsteadily on its treads but gathers confidence flattening a Poland Spring bottle. Harder tin and glass resist, so the tire vibrates and, shades of Uri Geller and Sissy Spacek, explodes them telekinetically.


Hence on to blowing up small living creatures, and to the head of a Ford pickup driver (Michael Ross) stopped for gas after ignoring willowy brunette Sheila (Roxane Mesquida), whose convertible lost all power to Rubber’s vibration. Arrogantly confident now, the villain tails her red VW to the dusty Easy Rest Inn, watches her shower -- as apparently the Spectators somehow do, too -- rolls into adjacent room 16 and watches car races and aerobic-exercise ladies on TV. (Music has warbled “I just don’t want to be lonely.”)

Motel maid Martina (Tara O’Brien) and owner Hugues (David Bowe) similarly lose their heads, the latter’s son Zach (Remi Thorne) is spared -- the baddie has a conscience?-- and law and order arrive, a notch above Keystone Kops.

Staying at the motel, too, the Accountant obeys an unseen telephoning non sequitur “Master” in supplying poisoned eats for the Spectators but himself finds the éclairs irresistible. Stripping off his pasted-on lawman’s patch, Lieutenant Chad tells his deputies they can go home because the story is fake but, reminded that not all the Spectators have been taken care of, allows them to resume the hunt for the killer. A booby-trapped mannequin wigged and short-skirted as Sheila, with her scripted seductive voice provided by the woman herself from a police surveillance van, is bait for the Rubber tire.

That the ending rolls to a freeway stop near the famed Hollywood sign, as a shoulder crack presages earthquake, points again to something to do with filmdom. This one-shtick movie with ramifications will probably do better on-demand than theatrically. Set up for remote control by a local DIYer, the title tire is rough enough to be effective but not CGI enough for macho and teen audiences. Striking in too many target-directions for sharp focus in any, Rubber will not wear out its welcome among viewers who find amusement in filling in dots prompted by suggestions.

(Released by Magnet Releasing and rated "R" for some violent images and language.)

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