Ruben Brandt, Collector review by Mark McPherson - Cinema Paradiso
I spotted a newspaper with a headline I’ve come to see more times than I’d care to admit; Cartoons Not Just For Kids Anymore. The article was in relation to the rise in popularity of series such as Bojack Horseman and the presence of films such as Sausage Party. The truth is that animation was never just for kids. But rather than strike back by citing the endless history of animated films scaled higher for audiences, it’d be easier to point to more modern examples. It’s for this reason why we need more films as brilliant as Ruben Brandt, Collector, an animated heist picture that is experimental with the medium, sexy with design, and bold with its action.
Existing in a world of artistic characters come to life, Ruben Brandt is a troubled man who deals with troubled people. An art collector and psychologist, Ruben treats robbers with problems that stem from more than just a desire to steal. Some have weight problems while others have fears they need to conquer. But Ruben has his own demons as well. Images of famous paintings flood his dreams, threatening to consume and kill Brandt. And it’s getting worse, as he starts to freak out and have these visions during the daytime.
To solve this issue, he follows his own advice of possessing your problems in order to conquer them. And he means this literally as he relies on his thief clients to help him pilfer all the famous paintings that are driving him mad. Helping him in this adventure is the expert thief Mimi, one of the most skilled art thieves around, in addition to Ruben’s usual gang of criminal clients. But they’ll have to be careful as Mimi’s rival of the cat-and-mouse detective Mike is hot on their heels. What Mike discovers about Ruben, however, he is not prepared to handle as all is revealed in his investigation.
Much like the similarly strange and surreal animated film The Triplets of Bellville, Ruben Brandt is an astounding animated film of great style and a flashy story. The world itself is a beautifully bizarre one, where characters appear almost as abstract paintings, having three eyes, multiples limbs, some with flat 2-D designs and others with figures so exaggerated they seem to be stills stuck in the frame. I love this disorienting nature that’s so intoxicating that when Ruben starts having his trippy visions of paintings trying to kill him, it’s tough to tell if what he is experiencing is real or only in his mind.
But while the art is certainly of great refinement, the story itself is a rip-roaring heist. Though the film features many colorful and wondrous pieces, it’s a tale not above having a fast-paced action scene of colliding trucks, explosive gunfire and jumping onto helicopters. Violence breaks out and it’s pretty damn brutal at times. There is sex appeal with the sensual nature of Mimi and the erotic figure of Mike’s assistant who seems to do business over the phone while in the bath at times. And there’s even a twist revealed as to why exactly Ruben is having these visions which, while expected, is still pretty clever.
Ruben Brandt, Collector is exactly the kind of adult animated film we need more of, filling a void I’ve felt ever since Anomalisa left the theaters. It has all the elements one would expect out of a kinky and crazy caper while at the same time utilizing many different styles of animation that go outside the norm. Much like Anomalisa, it’s a film I won’t soon forget and keep tucked away neatly as the 100th piece of evidence that animation is more than just a distraction for the kids.