Freelance writer. Melbourne based cinephile. Fond of food.
Published June 11th 2014
An Australian western
Director: David Michod (Animal Kingdom) Cast: Guy Pearce, Robert Pattinson, Scoot McNairy, David Field
Still waiting for that Mad Max film that's taking years to arrive? In the meantime, meet Max's leaner and meaner cinematic brother, The Rover. Like the famed road warrior films, here is a dystopian action/drama set on the desolate, lawless roads of the Australian outback.
Guy Pearce and Robert Pattinson as antagonistic travelling partners Eric and Rey
The intro caption tells us the story is set "10 years after the collapse", but that's all we get in the way of what's happened to the world. All we know is it's every man for himself and Guy Pearce's stoic, sun ravaged Eric is a lone wolf. In the opening scenes he has his car stolen by a trio of lowlifes, and spends the rest of the film chasing after them to get it back. Never come between a bloke and his car seems to be the moral of the story.
Eric soon takes in Rey (Robert Pattinson), the brother of one the car thieves, and forces him to assist in tracking down his brother. Rey doesn't quite seem the full quid, and Eric uses Rey's vulnerability to slowly turn him against his brother.
Right from the start there's an eerie tension to The Rover, with it's taut, off-kilter soundscapes, dangerous characters and lack of any kind of authority figures. Cutting through the tension though is a uniquely Australian sense of humour, dry, dark and often unexpected.
David Michod's highly anticipated follow up to Animal Kingdom has many similarities to that film. Set in a bleak world where guns do all the talking, it has at its centre a man incapable of expressing himself. In both films violence is used abruptly for maximum shock value - when a man shoots someone in the head, it happens a beat before you even have time to think about it.
As with Animal Kingdom, Michod proves he can draw extraordinary performances from his actors. Guy Pearce has never been better as the steely-eyed Eric who, despite his hardened exterior, seldom seems far away from completely breaking down in an emotional heap. The part was written with Pearce in mind, and he plays it to perfection.
I must admit I've loathed Robert Pattinson whenever I've seen him on screen before, but even he is impressive here, with his sleepy, chameleon eyes and weird man-child demeanour.
The Rover sees Michod in full command of his craft, it's a wonderfully controlled piece of filmmaking. The first hour or so is pure poetry, but for me this was a case of the journey being the reward. The destination was less satisfying. At film's end some may wonder what the whole point was. Perhaps, as Robert Pattinson's character says, "not everything has to be about something".
All images from https://www.facebook.com/TheRoverMovie