When I was growing up in the 1970’s, I remember my grandfather taking us kids to the drive in movies on Saturday nights in his 1964 AMC Rambler. I have a lot of good memories of my cinematic experiences with my elderly patriarch; sitting within the confines of his green machine and gorging on buttered popcorn and Pepsi. So you can imagine the nostalgic glee I had when the time came to review the new Calvin Lee Reeder film “The Rambler”. But in this particular case, the title refers more to a drifter (Dermot Mulroney) and not to Granddad’s car.
The film begins innocently enough. “The Rambler” has just been released from prison and is waiting for his girlfriend to pick him up. After finding himself kicked out off her house and being forced to sleep in a junkyard, he receives a letter from his brother in Oregon asking him to join him as a farm hand on his ranch.
Thus, with nothing more than the clothes on his back, a pack of butts, guitar and a desire to start a new life, “The Rambler” begins hitchhiking west. Which is pretty much where any sense of rationality seems to end.
Mulroney, who bears a striking resemblance to a young Mel Gibson with his cowboy hat and shades, is seemingly oblivious to the events he encounters along the way. Whether it’s becoming an assistant to a dream recording scientist (James Cady); hanging out with a woman who disappears over and over again (Lindsay Pulsipher) or being witness to exploding heads, blood, monsters and an obese boxer with a hook for an arm; he just goes with the flow. Where this sort of thing would be an obvious cause for concern to any rational person, “The Rambler” seems more content to just light up another cigarette.
At times, it’s difficult to describe what writer and director Calvin Lee Reeder had in mind for his dream-sequence movie. Instead of being a film with a set purpose, “The Rambler” feels more like several “Twilight Zone” short stories; none of which having any sort of beginning or finite end. Rather, the film feels like one big circle of itself from point A right back to point A again.
Reeder is known for his uniquely wild style of film making, but everything that “The Rambler” encounters just seems to happen, with no real reason or time for absorption. It’s this lack of continuity that left me feeling a bit empty.
Overall, the film combines elements of dark comedy, sci-fi and horror; and had a few sequences that really piqued my interest. In particular, the build-up to seeing if the dream recording machine would actually work and whether or not “The Rambler” could beat an alternate universe “Butterbean” like boxer. But even when both of these issues were finally resolved, I was still left with more questions than answers.
I’d like to say that watching “The Rambler” made me long for those days when Granddad took the kids to the movies. Sadly, it did not. But if campy, over the top sequences of blood and apathy are your thing, and you enjoy watching multiple cigarettes being lit up then this film is certainly worth a view.
Depending on your interest and tolerance level for the aforementioned film types, “The Rambler” will no doubt be a different experience for every viewer; which is perhaps what Reeder had in mind all along.
The Rambler will be released on DVD and Blu-Ray on June 25th, 2013