Rub (2023) Film Review |


Rub film still

Christopher Fox has done something truly remarkable with his feature film debut, Rub. From the writer’s seat, he has made sure to cover every angle possible, but his work as a director is smashing. Fox has made sure to form a whole story arc in the gray terrain that his film comfortably stays in: an action thriller with hints of comedy and romance, that never fully confirms what it actually is and how we should take it. However, this isn’t a random mistake or omission. It’s exactly how we’re supposed to digest the complex drama film about an unfortunate string of events a victim must go by in order to fulfill himself and find… some sort of redemption. This is something well-planned by a natural storyteller whose use of the medium speaks highly of his skills and makes us excited for what’s next. Hopefully, he’ll stay in the drama/thriller side of the fence.

Rub tells the story of Neal. Actually, make that “poor Neal”. He’s fascinated with absolutely nothing. He’s got almost no reason to continue with his boring life. He plays videogames in his underwear, and is the most socially awkward you can think of. Yes, there’s one of him in every office.

Of course, meeting a girl seems like a stretch. There’s no way he’ll be able to do so if he doesn’t get a little help. When a co-worker hands him a business card for a massage parlor, he decides to give it a shot. Neal seems to understand that he’s just been handed a contact for a hooker, but nevertheless, he seems amazed once he’s in. That’s how innocent the dude looks. A first encounter is enough to make him return. Only that fateful night, there are other plans: the place gets raided by people with guns and Neal “reacts”. He forms a bond with one of the sex workers who runs away with him. This will take them far away as they discover the truth behind the raid and Neal is put to the test in a circumstance that only seemed possible in the videogames he played everyday when he was just a regular guy.

The film’s selling point is Micah Spayer as Neal. The impressive performance by Spayer will make you doubt if he doesn’t go too far in getting in character as the role feels extremely natural. His character arc was definitely not easy, but Spayer hits a home run with his performance by avoiding every chance of being satirical or funny. Specifically, the third act allows for Neal to “implode” and reveal his true perception of the horrible adventure he placed himself in. And right when he makes a horrible mistake of not being able to see his responsibility, he meets the dark face of justice.

Again, Fox proves why Rub has gotten a few awards. His debut in feature films is a solid rendering of the fall of the everyday man. It’s not that it’s a realistic film. It just feels honest in a Saulnier/Blair way that always gets thriller hounds excited. Fox understands his limits, but he allows himself to play a bit by using the basic elements of film and the genre he’s tackling. In particular, the moment when Neal decides to knock on the door of the place that represents escapism is great. In his look you can see some awareness, but he doesn’t care at all. He needs to feel, and perhaps something “dangerous” is the only thing that can help him.

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Federico Furzan

Founder of Screentology. Member of the OFCS. RT Certified Critic

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