The Rambler: Sundance Review

The Rambler

U.S.A. (Director and screenwriter: Calvin Lee Reeder)

After being released from prison, a man known as “The Rambler” stumbles upon a strange mystery as he attempts the treacherous journey through back roads and small towns en route to reconnecting with his long-lost brother. Cast: Dermot Mulroney, Lindsay Pulsipher, Natasha Lyonne, James Cady, Scott Sharot.

Misguided exercise in genre fetishism marks a forgettable misfire.

Dermot Mulroney and Lindsay Pulsipher co-star in Calvin Lee Reeder’s sophomore feature.

PARK CITY – Like a lowbrow Tarantino channeling David Lynch, Calvin Lee Reeder delivers another stylistic mashup with The Rambler, a road movie served up with generous helpings of melodrama and gore. Anchor Bay will distribute the film later this year, although the safest strategy would be to stick to VOD and avoid any theatrical exposure and the withering word-of-mouth likely to result.

Adorned with various horror- and romance-movie tropes, the film’s first challenge is to convey whether it’s a spoof or intends to be taken seriously – a fairly academic question as it turns out. After the titular Rambler (Dermot Mulroney) – no other name necessary – gets released early for good behavior from prison somewhere in the Southwest, he heads toward Oregon to join his brother on a horse ranch when his old pawn-shop job doesn’t work out, since his parole restrictions won’t permit him to handle firearms (no word on how he can cross state lines, though).

Hitching rides down lonely rural roads wearing his aviator shades, cowboy hat and boots, he encounters a series of bizarre characters, including a mad professor (James Cady) who’s into mummification and attempting to record people’s dreams on VHS with a menacing homemade device, as well gentle souls -- like a girl (Lindsay Pulsipher) who takes an inexplicable liking to the laconic and unpredictable drifter.

Plot details turn out to be secondary to the cheap visual effects and abundant gore that Reeder frequently manages to incorporate by taking the narrative on some inexplicable and queasily violent detours. Overall, performances are just perfunctory enough to convey the concept of acting.

After his widely reviled feature debut The Oregonian, Reeder apparently took the rejection as encouragement to continue making B-movie genre tributes and his nominal fans are probably on tenterhooks awaiting his next project.

Venue: Sundance Film Festival, Park City at Midnight; SXSW, Midnighters
Production companies: Anchor Bay Films and Also Known As Pictures present an XYZ Films and Brooklyn Reptyle Films production
Cast: Dermot Mulroney, Lindsay Pulsipher, Natasha Lyonne, James Cady, Scott Sharot, Paul Blott
Director-writer: Calvin Lee Reeder
Producers: Nate Bolotin, Roger M. Mayer, Christo Dimassis, James Lejsek, Clayton Young
Executive Producers: Nick Spicer, Aram Tertzakian, Kevin Kasha, David Dickson, Joe Jenckes, Tony Rollo, Cathy Rollo
Director of photography: David McFarland
Production designer: Geoff Flint
Costume designer: Jesse Trevino
Music: Heather McIntosh, Scott Honea, Jed Maheu
Editor: Buzz Pierce
Sales: XYZ Films
No rating, 99 minutes