Somewhere in Quentin Dupieux's Rubber, there is a decent short horror/comedy film to be found. Unfortunately that film is lost amongst some kind of French-New Wave-Existential-Grindhouse-mash up that left this viewer feeling deflated.
Rubber tells the tale of "Robert", a tire that seemingly comes to life in the Southern California desert, and then goes on a killing spree. It seems that our steel-belted antihero possesses the power to cause small animals to explode, cars to break down, and people's heads to blow up. Sounds like fun, and it is, up to a point.
Not satisfied with this quirky tale of a killer Michelin, Dupieux includes a subplot concerning a group of people who have come to the desert to watch the goings on. This "audience" is supplied with binoculars and serve as a sort of Greek Chorus. Furthermore there is an unnamed man (Jack Plotnick) who seems to be something of a corporate flunky whose only job is to keep the audience from asking questions, and eventually to silence them for good via a poisoned roasted turkey.
There is also a police officer (Stephen Spinella) who offers a confounding preface to the goings on at the start of the film, and later tries to convince everyone that the deaths are not really happening, and that everything is just special effects - of course, he's proved to be wrong; with that in mind, we now seem to stumble into Théâtre de l'Absurde territory , nothing makes sense, there is no rhyme or reason, god is dead, and Nietzsche was right about everything.
Despite all of the philosophical mumbo-jumbo, the actual story of the psychopathic telekinetic tire is very clever. Sometimes we see "Robert" watching TV, other times he's spying on a woman in the shower, and at one point, he goes for a swim! The deaths that he cause are increasingly gory, and when he witnesses a group of men burning old tires at a dump, well, we sort of feel for him. Of course he want's revenge - poor guy was once an essential part of a car, but when he was worn out, he was tossed a-side and forgotten.
Rubber's saving grace is its last few minutes; when "Robert" is destroyed, his malevolent soul is transposed into a child's tricycle and soon that squeaky, creepy toy is tooling through the wasteland, joined by more tires until eventually they reach their destination, and we see what they truly want...
Honestly, I did not know what to make of Rubber. Yes, it has its moments - several of them - but for the most part, it seemed so self aware, so cognizant of its edgy post-modern feel that I sort of wanted to smack everyone involved in the making of it.
In the end, it will be up to you to judge. By all means this one is worth a curious glance, but in my humble opinion, it goes on much too long and would have been better were it just a short feature. Instead, the whole affair just comes off like so much cinematic/philosophical masturbation.