Picture Clint Eastwood blundering into a David Lynch movie and you'll have "The Rambler," Calvin Lee Reeder's hallucinatory hitchhiker horror about a taciturn ex-con (Dermot Mulroney) who keeps stumbling across strangers — and corpses — that might not actually exist. Either way, he doesn't much seem to care. He's just a cowboy trying to make it to his brother's pony farm in Oregon, but like Odysseus in blue jeans — albeit, a much less talkative Odysseus — he's beset by a dozen devils, including a fight promoter who forces him to battle a man with a hook, a traveling magician with a dream machine that makes people's heads explode, and a nameless beautiful blond (Lindsay Pulsipher, the star of Reeder's equally incoherent "The Oregonian") who rides horses, does the splits and is occasionally maimed, killed or resurrected as a skin-crawling wraith. And we haven't even gotten to the taxidermy lizards.
What all of this means is, frankly, nothing. But it's a handsome nothing, at least until you get sick of the screaming. The best thing about "The Rambler" is that the first 20 minutes where newly released Mulroney attempts to adjust to life outside of prison play like a deadpan redneck drama (it did, after all, premiere at Sundance), which makes it possible to trick your dad on Father's Day into thinking you've taken him to a normal movie. Once the first head explodes, you can snicker at his shock and then make it up to him afterward with a beer.
— Amy Nicholson
MPAA rating: R for disturbing gory violence, strong language including sexual references and for brief nudity.
Running time: 1 hour, 39 minutes.
Playing: At the Downtown Independent, Los Angeles.Copyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun