Title: The Rover
Director: David Michôd
Cast: Guy Pearce, Robert Pattinson, and Scoot McNairy
I was a big fan of the Australian film “Animal Kingdom” when I watched it back in 2010. A very bleak and gritty film about a crime family in Melbourne on the verge of seeing their empire come crashing down was more than a solid first effort from writer/director David Michôd. His follow up is far less of a crime film, but still emphasizes the need for family among society’s outcasts and survivors in “The Rover.”
The film takes place in the future in the Australian Outback and features Guy Pearce as a very violent ex-soldier turned farmer. But when a group of outlaws steal his car at the beginning of the film, he goes on a relentless and punishing pursuit for his vehicle and will not let anyone get in his way to get it back. He meets up with Robert Pattinson’s Reynolds, who was part of the group of outlaws, but was left for dead during, what is believed to be, a thrilling heist or escape. The pair both has the same objective: to find the on-the-run outlaws. During their journey, they form a subtle and meaningful bond, which endears them to trust each, while living in a world without trust or compassion.
Michôd delivers a magnificent film that is full of dry textures and an extremely hot atmosphere. It has small notes of science fiction such as being set in a post- apocalyptic future, but is not a conventional sci-fi film with flying cars, time travel, or outer space. It’s not that kind of sci-fi. It seems like the director excels at finding the beauty in something in the ugly, not only in “The Rover” characters, but also the futuristic world’s overrun and dying world. The Australian Outback can be an unforgiving environment, which makes it harder for anyone to survive. It’s also a very interesting film about the nature of friendship in a bleak world.
The film is more character and mood driven than the very simple narrative from Michôd and “Animal Kingdom’s” star Joel Edgerton, who serves as the film’s co-screenwriter. Guy Pearce, who plays Eric, is fantastic in every way. He’s a very driven and bitter man; while at the same time has the capacity of compassion in odd situations. Ever since his breakout performance in “LA Confidential” in 1997, Guy Pearce is an actor you have to notice. And he’s something to notice in “The Rover.” His performance makes you wonder why Pearce isn’t a bigger star in American movies. It seems that he’s made a career of being the standout actor in many genre movies from Christopher Nolan’s “Memento” in the year 2000 to the science fiction space prison movie “Lockout.”
Robert Pattinson, on the other hand, needs to tighten up his performance a bit. While I’m a big fan of his work “post-Twilight,” Pattinson is choosing interesting projects from top-tier directors to distance himself from the young adult film franchise and “The Rover” is no different. Pattison plays Reynolds, a very simple and almost dimwitted American, who might be slow, but is a bit smarter than he leads on. The only minor problem I have with Pattison’s performance is that it’s not as nuanced as Pearce’s. In fact, it’s very pronounced, which makes it almost comical or annoying. You can almost see the strings in his performance, which is problematic because it comes off as forced, rather than natural, in an otherwise natural film.
While “The Rover” is deliberately paced, it still has an amazing sense of urgency that most films today simply do not have. The goals are clearly defined and the characters are smart and strong. It has a wicked bite and, surprising, amount of humor and levity for a film set in a very bleak world. “The Rover” also has a smart drive to it that makes it worth watching for any cinephile.