Quentin Dupieux's 'Rubber' Doesn't Bounce


Though the tire explodes people’s heads, Rubber is tedious instead of ridiculous. It's not nearly the movie it should have been.

Quentin Dupieux

Magnet Releasing

10 November 2010 (FR)

A movie about a sentient, psychokinetic killer tire? You had me at hello.

Unfortunately, Rubber -- released on VOD in February and then in select theaters 1 April -- is not nearly as entertaining as its premise suggests. Though the tire explodes people's heads, Rubber is tedious instead of ridiculous, not nearly the movie it should have been.

Through some unexplained phenomenon, a tire comes to life, rolls around, discovers the ability to blow things up with just by thinking about it, and begins stalking a sultry young female traveler (Roxane Mesquida). As the tire also kills a series of people, the police catch wind of the murder spree and try to stop it.

This high concept proves difficult for writer/director Quentin Dupieux to stretch into a feature length movie. The story of the tire -- named "Robert" in the credits -- has an oddball sensibility that is often fun to watch. (Though potential victims and pursuers don't call the tire by name, they do refer to the tire as "he" and "him": apparently, serial killers are male by default.)

The tire is a strangely engaging character with whom you might identify, a process helped by point-of-view shots. The tire pulls himself out of the dirt, shakes himself off, and falls flat on his metaphorical face. A scrappy sort, he picks himself right up and keeps rolling, eventually able to negotiate the rough desert landscape. Exploring his surroundings with his newfound consciousness, he hones his telekinetic powers by blowing up a beer bottle, a rabbit, and then a crow. The stalker tire goes on to exact revenge on those who wrong him -- like a guy in a pickup truck who runs the tire off the road, and a hotel maid with the gall to think that a tire is not a legitimate guest.

But if these episodes are goofy and decently paced, the film is less interesting when it cuts away from the tire to a gimmicky framing device that involves a group of spectators in the desert watching events unfold. They mimic an audience in a movie theater, some talking amongst themselves, others arguing or shushing each other, just like the crowd at your local metroplex. Increasingly, this element feels forced and unnecessary.

Initially, the watchers are a diversion, a way to comment on the main action. But their comments are obvious, nothing you won't have thought of yourself, and soon you get the distinct impression that Dupieux doesn't imagine you can figure it out on your own. As the viewers take up more and more screen time, Rubber becomes more about them than the tire.

At one point, they're all poisoned, so the people acting out the movie can go home and be done. However, one man in a wheelchair (Wings Hauser) survives, and the show, as they say, must go on, much to the chagrin of Lieutenant Chad (Steven Spinella), who awkwardly tries to convince the people in the movie that they are, in fact, in a movie.

Despite or because of his efforts, you may be tempted to look for meaning in Rubber. It begins with Spinella directly addressing the crowd of spectators, ostensibly you, in the theater. He states that in every movie in history, things happen for "no reason" and that the film you are about to watch is an homage to "no reason". He's right. As the tire's tale becomes more bizarre and morbid, Rubber's purpose runs loses traction.






Performing Race in James Whale's 'Show Boat'

There's a song performed in James Whale's musical, Show Boat, wherein race is revealed as a set of variegated and contradictory performances, signals to others, a manner of being seen and a manner of remaining hidden, and it isn't "Old Man River".


The Greyboy Allstars Rise Up to Help America Come Together with 'Como De Allstars'

If America could come together as one nation under a groove, Karl Denson & the Greyboy Allstars would be leading candidates of musical unity with their funky new album, Como De Allstars.


The Beatles' 'Help!' Redefined How Personal Popular Music Could Be 55 Years Ago

Help! is the record on which the Beatles really started to investigate just how much they could get away with. The album was released 55 years ago this week, and it's the kick-off to our new "All Things Reconsidered" series.


Porridge Radio's Mercury Prize-Nominated 'Every Bad' Is a Wonderful Epistemological Nightmare

With Every Bad, Porridge Radio seduce us with the vulnerability and existential confusion of Dana Margolin's deathly beautiful lyricism interweaved with alluring pop melodies.


​​Beyoncé's 'Black Is King' Builds Identity From Afrofuturism

Beyoncé's Black Is King's reliance on Afrofuturism recuperates the film from Disney's clutches while reclaiming Black excellence.

Reading Pandemics

Colonial Pandemics and Indigenous Futurism in Louise Erdrich and Gerald Vizenor

From a non-Native perspective, COVID-19 may be experienced as an unexpected and unprecedented catastrophe. Yet from a Native perspective, this current catastrophe links to a longer history that is synonymous with European colonization.


John Fullbright Salutes Leon Russell with "If the Shoe Fits" (premiere + interview)

John Fullbright and other Tulsa musicians decamped to Leon Russell's defunct studio for a four-day session that's a tribute to Dwight Twilley, Hoyt Axton, the Gap Band and more. Hear Fullbright's take on Russell's "If The Shoe Fits".


Roots Rocker Webb Wilder Shares a "Night Without Love" (premiere + interview)

Veteran roots rocker Webb Wilder turns back the hands of time on an old favorite of his with "Night Without Love".


The 10 Best Films of Sir Alan Parker

Here are 10 reasons to mourn the passing of one of England's most interesting directors, Sir Alan Parker.


July Talk Transform on 'Pray for It'

On Pray for It, Canadian alt-poppers July Talk show they understand the complex dualities that make up our lives.


With 'Articulation' Rival Consoles Goes Back to the Drawing Board

London producer Rival Consoles uses unorthodox approaches on his latest record, Articulation, resulting in a stunning, beautiful collection.


Paranoia Goes Viral in 'She Dies Tomorrow'

Amy Seimetz's thriller, She Dies Tomorrow, is visually dazzling and pulsating with menace -- until the color fades.


MetalMatters: July 2020 - Back on Track

In a busy and exciting month for metal, Boris arrive in rejuvenated fashion, Imperial Triumphant continue to impress with their forward-thinking black metal, and death metal masters Defeated Sanity and Lantern return with a vengeance.


Isabel Wilkerson's 'Caste' Reveals the Other Kind of American Exceptionalism

By comparing the American race-based class system to that of India and Nazi Germany, Isabel Wilkerson makes us see a familiar evil in a different light with her latest work, Caste.


Anna Kerrigan Prioritizes Substance Over Style in 'Cowboys'

Anna Kerrigan talks with PopMatters about her latest film, Cowboys, which deviates from the common "issues style" approach to LGBTQ characters.


John Fusco and the X-Road Riders Get Funky with "It Takes a Man" (premiere + interview)

Screenwriter and musician John Fusco pens a soulful anti-street fighting man song, "It Takes a Man". "As a trained fighter, one of the greatest lessons I have ever learned is to walk away from a fight without letting ego get the best of you."


'Run-Out Groove' Shows the Dark Side of Capitol Records

Music promoter Dave Morrell's memoir, Run Out Groove, recalls the underbelly of the mainstream music industry.


It's a Helluva of a World in Alain Corneau's 'Série Noire'

Alain Corneau's Série Noire is like a documentary of squalid desperation, albeit a slightly heightened and sardonic one.

Collapse Expand Reviews

Collapse Expand Features
PM Picks
Collapse Expand Pm Picks

© 1999-2020 All rights reserved.
PopMatters is wholly independent, women-owned and operated.