June 3, 2011

Movie Rating: 5/10 DVD Rating: 7/10

Expectations weren’t exactly tremendous when word about a killer tire movie started to circulate, but many were curious to learn more about Quentin Dupieux’s Rubber (Mongrel Media) after it screened out of competition at Cannes.

Things get off to an iffy start from the get-go, with a snooty monologue about how countless other films rarely made sense, so why should this one. Neither convincing nor amusingly daft, it’s instantly apparent that Rubber is a) trying to instil a poor man’s meta-narrative or b) just padding on a few extra minutes to give it a legitimate full-length running time. Either way, it’s unnecessary.

The story concerns a telepathic automobile tire that essentially functions as an ’80s slasher movie stalker. Rather than cook up clever ways that to dispatch its victims, the inanimate object repeatedly makes peoples’ heads explode – a tactic that feels redundant after the third ‘splosion.

More irritating is how Rubber repeatedly breaks the fourth wall by cutting to a group of onlookers observing and commenting on the tire’s activities from afar. Like many other elements in the film, this device proves somewhat intriguing at first, but is milked to no end. Had the film just played out like some schlocky b-movie, things would’ve fared much better.

Of course, a gonzo premise like this does fuel a few crafty moments. The tire’s inception and mounting confrontations (from plastic bottle to a human head) is somewhat charming and would’ve made for a rather pleasing short film on its own. As the killer’s female fixation, Catherine Breillat-regular Roxane Mesquida is pretty appealing, but is hilarious in the film’s climactic scene in which she attempts to lure the tire to blow up a booby-trapped mannequin’s head.

Mongrel does a swell job with this DVD release. It looks great and sounds ever better (Dupieux is perhaps better known as Mr. Oizo, the avante-garde musician who gave us 1999’s “Flat Beat”). The extras are equally solid – we’re treated to several interviews with Dupieux, Mesquida and other cast members, in addition to a short doc directed by Dupieux and a tire test. Probably more than the movie deserves, but fans should dig it.