2013 SXSW Review: THE RAMBLER

By Mark Saldana 

Rating: 1.5 (Out of 4 Stars)

Writer/director Calvin Reader’s dark, sometimes hypnotic film about a drifter recently released from prison and his journey to visit his brother is a bizarre hallucinogenic mess. Dermot Mulroney, who portrays the title character, does a fantastic job as do the other members of the cast.  I just couldn’t get into this seemingly aimless story and its entire sensory overload of hellish imagery and gory violence.

The Rambler returns home to his wife Cheryl (Natasha Lyonne), only to leave nearly as soon as he arrives. Given the nasty homecoming courtesy of his obnoxious wife, no one can really blame him.  He eventually begins traveling to where his brother and his brother’s more normal family live. Along the way he participates in illegal fighting, meets up with a mad scientist (James Cady) who claims to have the ability to record dreams, and falls for a beautiful and angelic lady (Lindsay Pulsipher) who may or may not be a figment of his imagination.

After watching this film, I got the impression that Calvin Reader devoured some hallucinogens, immersed himself in the films of David Lynch and regurgitated the bizarre images from his mind.  This is coming from a fan of Lynch’s work.  At least with those films and the Twin Peaks TV show, he has strong and compelling narratives as well as fascinating characters. I found none of these traits in this film.  I will admit that Reader does have a knack for incredible images and the cinematography by Dave McFarland truly is gorgeous and effective in capturing his trippy world. I think with an excellent script, Calvin Reader could work some serious magic and this particular film is badly in need of stronger writing.

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