When punks are in movies, they tend to look inauthentic. Like the costume designer picked up a fashion magazine, saw something with safety pins and a few patches, and went, “That.” Jenn Wexler’s punks in THE RANGER look like they’d be next door to the T.R. House in SUBURBIA instead of across the street from a Green Day concert. Wexler singles out one of them, Chelsea, as the star of her show. Something happened to her normal life as a little girl that sent her down the road that led her to the realm of addicts and squat dens. Something involving a forest ranger. We’re not told what, at first. Just her and him at a table, with cops banging at the door of a cabin. There’s a jump-cut, then we see Chelsea again, all grown-up at a concert and getting high with her friends (the editing did a nice job of showing that). “Friends” is a weird word for the crowd she’s with because they’re the kind of people you wake up ten years later and wonder why you hung out with them. It’s not that they’re monsters; more like she seems to be a tourist. But through life, not just the scene.
So Chelsea’s boyfriend shows up with packages of a new drug to sell, cops raid the concert, said boyfriend almost kills a cop, and they’re on the run with the gang to her uncle’s cabin. The one with the angry cops. Turns out, he was killed by wolves when she was a little girl. They stop at a gas station to steal what they need… and then she sees The Ranger. For the first time since the banging at the doors. Seeing him at his truck and her with her gang at their van is interesting. You don’t get bigger extremes than an officer of the law and a group of anarchists. As the flick goes on, those extremes turn to parallels as The Ranger loses his shit because they violate ordinances. One by one they fall, until it’s just Chelsea and her boyfriend. The Ranger tells him that she killed her uncle. Accidentally shot him dead with a double-barrel. Then he knocks her out after killing her souvenir.
There’s an odd leitmotif that runs through Chelsea’s life. She’s always surrounded by people except when she’s herself. Then it’s just two people: her and the unlucky one. When she wakes up, she’s in a cage and The Ranger approaches her wearing just a wolf’s pelt and resting somewhere twixt Tom Cruise-crazy and Gary Busey-crazy. Either way, it’s not a fun time. This next bit isn’t blaming her. You don’t kill people unless a killer’s in you, and it’s obvious that he was fucked up before the banging started. Covering up the murder of her uncle all those years ago just gave him an excuse. He obsessed over her childhood photos left in the cabin and fell in a kinda of love with her. That probably makes him a pedophile, too. I’ll have to get Charlotte Gainsbourg to strap him in a chair and ask some questions. When she wakes up again, Chelsea’s in the cabin and drugged with what she partied with at the start. The Ranger wants to keep her there ’til she loves him, you see. She fights back, shoots him up, and the chase leads them up a tower that overlooks the forest. Finally getting on top of the situation, there’s a lovely bit of poetry twixt her and the unlucky one. He wants her to admit what she is, and suddenly it seems her uncle’s death wasn’t an accident. In a bit of irony that’s like the love child of Edgar Allan Poe and Oscar Wilde, she admits that she sees what he does, that she’s a killer, as she bludgeons him with binoculars. At the highest point of the forest, for all to see.
Then she kills him, and goes off to live the truth.