Rubbernecking is a white-knuckle thriller from the master of suspense, David Slade. Rubbernecker is a thrilling suspense film starring Paul Bettany, Michelle Monaghan and everyone’s favorite, Ryan Gosling.
A black screen appears with the statistics on all the motor related fatalities that occurs accidentally in LA.
Rubbernecker opens on Paul Bettany playing Milton Stuart waking up to go to work at his office. It looks like any other day from the outset. He leaves his wife, still sleeping and goes to work. The whole time he’s there he looks at either his watch or the nearby clock. As soon as 5 o’clock hits, he calls home and tells his wife he has to work late. He gets up, gets into his car and pulls out of the driveway. He pulls out of the driveway and over to the curb and waits. We see Bettany’s character Milton look at his watch and as he does that, a car drives past him. He immediately begins following the car.
The car he is inconspicuously following containts Michelle Monaghan. She is listening to talk radio and on the phone with her husband. Milton follows her onto an LA Expressway and follows extremely close to her. Monaghan’s character takes notice while on the phone with her husband and tells him that she thinks a cop is following her. Right as she makes eye contact through the rearview mirror, Milton speeds up and bumps her car. She curses and speeds up. He follows her in hot pursuit. All the while she is on the phone with her husband, he asks what’s happening and she says she thinks shes being chased. At this point Milton has sped over to the side of her car and as she tries to speed up, he hits her car at full force on the side and her car is sent careening over an overpass. He speeds away as an onlooker gets his license plate number. Milton drives off at the nearest exit, goes to a seemingly abandoned garage, changes his license plate, gets into a different car and drives away.
The camera goes back to the scene of the accident, you can still hear Monaghans husband asking if she is ok, but she’s dead.
The titlecard appears with drippy blood font “Rubbernecking”
The film opens up on a funeral sequence for Monaghans character. Her husband Nick, played by Ryan Gosling is seen staring in a stoic fashion at her framed picture at the burial site. He is sad, but clearly angry. He says “someone did this to her” to his sister Sharon played by Maggie Gyllenhaal. Sharon tells Nick to let it go, but he can’t. He is consumed by grief and anger. He goes to the police and tries to convince them that someone had her killed. The chief of police played by JK Simmons does not believe it was foul play. The detectives surveyed the accident site and concluded that it was purely just that, an accident. Nick doesn’t buy it. He’s begins growing a beard because that’s what you do when your wife dies and he stops going to his job as an investigative reporter.
He also now lives in a shitty apartment even though it’s been mere days since his wife died.
We go back to Milton. Back at Milton’s house we see that in his basement he has another hidden room and in this room, there are photographs of women and men on cork-boards. We get the impression he’s killed before and will do it again. He gets a phone call on his cell (even though he wouldn’t really have good reception) and he says “it’s finished”. The disembodied voice on the other line, played by Mark Strong, says “it’s not finished until you get them both”
We cut back to Nick, and his boss played by Ian McShane telling him that he has to get back to work. He was very close to blowing the lid off of story about LA corruption that would have earned him the (insert good writing award here). He says none of that matters anymore. His wife was killed and no one wants to listen.
He goes home and starts writing over all of the details of his wifes murder that he can. We see flashbacks of everything she said while the chase was going on. He remembers the description of the car and that the man wears glasses. He calls over to some guy who knows a lot about cars and finds out that there are only 10 cars in LA that are that model and color.
We cut back to Milton. We see that Milton’s next target is Nick. Apparently the story Nick was working on was going to cripple organized crime in LA and when the mob needs someone taken out, they want it to look like an accident.
Over the next 20 mins, it’s painfully clear that Milton and Nick are working their way to an accidental encounter where both realize that they are both onto each other, so when it actually happens the air is taken out of the scene. Neither of them show their hand however that they really do know each other.
So now Nick, who also has been drinking, believes Milton was his wife’s killer, and Milton rushes home nervous that he will be compromised. Days go by and Milton thinks his paranoia is unwarranted and begins going back to work at the demands of Mark Strong. It takes a long time for him to stage the perfect vehicular kill spot, so he gets back to work.
Now we see that Nick has begun to follow Milton. He knows where he lives, he knows what he’s planning and he knows he’s going to stop Milton once and for all.
Through a black guy, who we met really quickly in the beginning who seemed really nice, we see that Nick, now unemployed still has some contacts at the old paper. Switch (which is a stupid name), played by Brandon T. Jackson, finds out Miltons phone number and gives it to Nick and says be safe. Nick calls Milton and says “I know it’s you, and I’m going to get you, but first, I’m going to get YOUR wife”. Now the tables have turned and Nick is going to kill Milton’s wife, or so it appears. It was actually just a ploy to get Milton to come back home. He comes home and Nick is hiding behind the door with a knife. Nick jumps from behind the door and Milton and he fight back and forth. Milton tries to explain, “They never tell me anything. They just give me a target and tell me to kill them” Nick ask, “why me? Why MY wife?” Milton eventually tells Nick everything and tries to shoot Milton with a gun he’s had hidden the whole time, but he misses and Nick stabs him to death. Switch had called the cops and explained to them everything that he knew about Milton so that when they showed up to a dead Milton and bloodied Nick, they don’t arrest him. Nick was right all along and he goes back to his job writing that article and he brings down the mob.
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“I know it’s you, and I’m going to get you, but first, I’m going to get YOUR wife” What a great great fucking line. I can see the poster for this movie with the tagline something like
Don’t Get Caught………RUBBERNECKING, with just a photo of the high way with a blood stain smeared across it, broken glass and car parts throw on there for good measure.
Paul Bettany is perfect casting for menacing car assassin. If they wanted to shoot older I would also suggest Richard Jenkins.