By Its Hallfway-point, The Rambler Isn’t Even Trying to Make Sense


Calvin Lee Reeder has made the kind of movie where more effort seems to have gone into the cast’s wardrobe than their dialogue. As the title character, who’s never given a proper name, Dermot Mulroney is always clad in cowboy gear—hats, boots—as well as aviator shades (even at night). He seems meant to be channeling Gary Cooper, or at least Timothy Olyphant on Justified, but he just looks like he got lost en route to a fashion shoot. At the start, the rambler gets released from prison, then fired from a job at a pawnshop, where he can’t handle firearms due to the conditions of his parole. On a road trip to his brother’s Oregon farm, he meets a man who tries to record people’s dreams onto VHS tapes, but only succeeds in blowing up their heads. The Scanners reference should clue you in that Reeder is enamored of the ’80s; The Rambler evokes the vibe of Raising Arizona, Blue Velvet, and Down by Law. However, it shows little of their craftsmanship and none of their intelligence. The narrative is haphazard, and by the middle of the film, it’s apparent that Reeder isn’t even trying to make sense. Unconventional storytelling can be entertaining, too, but The Rambler just seems weird for its own sake and in love with cheap shock value: a dog chewing on a woman’s corpse, a man’s eyeballs dangling from their sockets. The overall effort comes off like a half-assed pastiche of the entire cult section of the old Kim’s Video on Bleecker Street.