After having been in prison for 4 years, a man takes to the road. He decides to go work on his brother's farm, but it's a long way to Oregon. On the road he finds a young, sweet woman who seems to be attracted by his lonesome ways, but this is one of few good things about the trip. The way there is filled with bizarre meetings, otherworldly experiences, over-the-top situations and a whole lot of walking and hitchhiking.
"The Rambler" wasn't what I expected. I went into it knowing next to nothing, of course, but usually there's some way for me to tell what I'm about to watch. I hadn't seen Calvin Reeder's "The Oregonian" (or anything else by him) so I had even less of a clue. "The Rambler" was most definitely not what I expected. Should this be taken as a good thing? I think so. What I expected was something that I have seen many times before - what I got was something reminiscent of things I have watched before, but a new experience as a whole. This movie has been getting quite a lot of poop thrown at it. It's certainly no critic pleaser. I can kind of understand why, but perhaps it's just my skewed needs in movies that makes a movie like "The Rambler" highly enjoyable.
The movie takes form as a road movie about a cowboy-styled man (with aviator glasses) coming out of prison after 4 years, trying to find his way back into society. Aimless he wanders the roads, but eventually decides to get going to his brother's place in Oregon to help him at the farm. On the way he meets a variety of strange people. Each and every one of them lead him to a variety of strange events. There's the love interest, a sexy blonde girl who seems to be fascinated with his lonesome, quiet attitude. There's a crazy professor who tries finding people whose dreams he can record on a VHS player - unfortunately their heads explode. Oh and he also drags a number of mummies with him. In the middle or nowhere he gets into a bar fight, and this bar fight somehow leads him to become a boxer (for a short while). He ends up having to fight people with hooks and huge, strong men who can punch his teeth out. Later on he also meets a taxi driver who is sexually aroused by injured women - the closer to death the better. Yeah, it's not easy being a man on the road! At least not for the Rambler.
This doesn't even begin to explain everything that goes on in "The Rambler". The movie goes a long way to prove how weird it can be. This isn't always a good thing - the movie often moves around without a direction. At times it doesn't even try. Add to that an ending we could've seen a mile away. However, the way the ending was done was still quite a fun way to go - very casually having the lead character state the obvious. These are definitely flaws within the movie, but only when you ask certain people. I didn't get what I expected, but instead I got a movie with a thin plot but with a ton of crazy stuff jammed into it. And it's fun! It's twisted and sometimes repulsive, there are hundreds of sudden changes where it goes from calm drama to insane horror. The director clearly wanted to be confusing and perhaps he did try to hard. That doesn't mean the movie isn't entertaining still! When a movie can go from road movie drama to black comedy, to psychological thriller and finally land on creature feature horror... well, call me smitten. These are all fine reasons to NOT like the movie - it's rarely fun to watch something that was made purely to step on toes or by someone trying to hard. But personally, with "The Rambler" it was funny.
The first surprise that the movie offered was Dermot Mulroney in the lead role - a familiar face from movies far away from the bizarre. Though he did also act in Chan-wook Park's "Stoker" so perhaps I shouldn't have been that shocked? Nope, I am still shocked after mostly having seen his face opposite people like Jennifer Aniston. Did he do a great job here? Meh. I don't think he's a bad actor, but his role as the Rambler doesn't exactly give him too much space to prove himself. It seems like the only people who got to really show their art here were the special effects artists and the editor/s. And of course, the man who played the crazy professor!
It's okay that people hate on "The Rambler". It's to be expected. It's most definitely a cult movie in every sense of the word, but I also doubt it will get the opportunity to find its audience (can it then be a CULT movie, if it doesn't have its cult? Let's not get annoying here). When a movie mixes genres and styles the way that "The Rambler" does, I can't help but recall past cult flicks like "Repo Man" and "The Dark Backward" - dark, twisted, fun movies with attitude. If "The Rambler" can find its audience thanks to Anchor Bay, then I am sure this will be mentioned a few times in the coming years. But it needs to be played at the right places at the right times, be promoted just the right way (not revealing too much, but still lure people in), and hopefully reviews like this one will help. It's a bad movie when you look at the story or how its director literally tried to push out every genre into one movie but not care enough to connect them. Looking at it from where I'm standing, it's an over-the-top, psycho-mash up of genres that reeks of entertainment value for the wicked. As stupid as it might be.