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the rambler

Written and directed by: Calvin Lee Reeder
Starring: Dermot Mulrony, Lindsay Pulsipher, James Cady, Scott Sharot, Paul Blott, Natasha Lyonne

I’ve seen weird movies, I’ve seen challenging movies, but I don’t think I’ve ever seen a movie as flat out hostile to an audience as The Rambler. Just when you think you’ve made some sort of sense out of the mess or dug some meaning from the chaos Reeder, the writer and director, will burst your little bubble of understanding and leave you wondering what the hell you just wasted the last ninety minutes on while the narrative literally burns down around you.

The Movie

Dermot Mulrony is the Rambler. Calling him the protagonist wouldn’t really be accurate. Mulrony’s character is the focus of the film, just something to hang a bunch of weird vignettes around. The film starts with the Rambler in prison. He’s a watcher, hanging back with a cigarette between his lips just watching everything happening around him. This is evidently not a bad strategy to survive a Southwestern prison because soon the Rambler is being released. When no one is there to pick him up he starts hoofing his way towards town. Within a few miles his girlfriend picks him up, she didn’t forget she just couldn’t be bothered to get there on time. After a welcome back party which The Rambler watches more than participates in he tries to settle back into his old life. A strange obsession with piles of old vacuum tube circuity that looks like it’s been pulled from an aircraft graveyard and an inability to touch the firearms at his job at the pawn shop interfere severely with his ability to re-assimilate.

This obsession with obsolete electronics may have something to do with the occasional blinking lights he notices in the sky or maybe not, but either way his girlfriend finally gets tired of the inattention and throws him out of the trailer. She is a unquestionably a bitch but after spending four years in prison the Rambler is remarkably disinterested and distant. Still that’s no excuse to chase him out of their trailer with a cheap 38. After spending the night in a scrapyard the Rambler is late to work at the pawn shop and gets another humiliating reaming from his boss. A man can only take so much, even an unresponsive emotional cypher like the Rambler, so when he receives a letter from his little brother inviting him out to Oregon to help out on the family farm. The Rambler steals a guitar, a roll of cash, a Polaroid and heads north.

And here ends any semblance to a rational story. From now on we are just along for the ride as the Rambler moves from vignette to vignette meeting a host of weirdo’s and lowlifes and one beautiful creature that may be a woman, may be a demon, maybe a figment of his imagination. Each little set piece gets more bizarre and the further from reality the Rambler travels the less you find you care until finally you’re just happy to see the credits roll. Somewhere around midpoint in the Rambler’s travels an acquaintance explains “Perhaps I should have told you, I’m completely untrustworthy” which is actually a good way to look at everything you see in the The Rambler. Assume it’s all a lie and it doesn’t make any more sense but at least you wont waste as much time trying to understand it.

The first weirdo he meets, played by James Cady, is some sort of freak show mad scientist with a machine that will supposedly transcribe dreams onto VHS tapes. This mad scientist also travels with a couple of still fresh mummies. It does not take much imagination to contemplate some sort of connection between the two activities. There is an old underground boxing hustler and a cab driver with an peculiar fetish along with some freaky faces that seem to turn up every hundred miles or so. The most important encounters on the road though are with a mysterious woman played by Lindsay Pulsipher. Technically the woman isn’t as mysterious as the encounters. You’re never really sure whether they are real, flashbacks, delusions or dreams. As the movie rolls on the vignettes become more and more aggressively gross. I guess they are supposed to be disturbing but to be disturbing you have to have some sort of emotional connection with the characters and there is just not enough character to the Rambler to form any sort of attachment to. Eventually the weird and the gore gets so excessive you just quit trying to figure out what the hell is going on.

There are a few moments here and there that are enjoyable, a couple of one liners that earn a chuckle, and you still get this vibe that somewhere in there is a wild, crazy, awesome story but you just get tired digging for it. One frustrating thing about The Rambler is that everything else about the movie is actually pretty good. The casting is spot on, Mulrony, Cady and Pulsipher all find just the right note for some very challenging characters. The rest of the cast is full of interesting faces and bodies. The film was shot in and around Roswell, New Mexico and the cinematography is solid. It makes me want to take a road trip, I’ll just stay way from old men in lab coats, cabbies and beautiful women, on second thought actually maybe I’ll just stay home.

3/10

The Video

The film in presented in 1080p in the original 2.40:1 aspect ratio. The slightly under saturated video looks great. You won’t miss an ounce of the spurting blood or pus or vomit or a single dangling tendon.

9/10

The Audio

The audio is presented in Dolby TrueHD 5.1 and it actually uses it with the foley and unsettling ambient sound coming at you from all directions. The dialog is always clear though. There are no alternate language tracks and only subtitles for English and Spanish.

7/10

The Packaging and Bonus Materials

The disc comes in a standard Blu Ray case, with some catchy sepia toned artwork. If your not careful the artwork could easily trick you into picking this movie up. There are no bonus features beyond some trailers.

5/10

Overall (not an average)

4/10

Another example that weird for weirdness sake is not enough. You have to have a reason for the weird or all you end up with is drivel.

The Movie: 3/10
The Video: 9/0
The Audio: 7/10
The Packaging and Bonus Materials: 5/10
Overall (not and average): 4/10

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