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Review: The Rover

The Rover
06.20.2014
8 10

PLOT: Australia: ten years after the fall. When Eric’s (Guy Pearce) car is stolen by a gang of thugs, he pursues them across the outback. He stumbles upon the wounded Ray (Robert Pattinson) – a former member of said gang. The two men form an uneasy alliance, with the ultimate goal being payback. But for what exactly?

REVIEW: The post-apocalyptic genre has strong roots in Australian cinema. Going back to MAD MAX and the legions of clones that followed, there’s something about the desolate, endless roads of the Australian outback that gives off a dystopian vibe, where the only thing more dangerous than the elements is man himself.

THE ROVER takes the genre and gives it a nihilistic, somewhat elegiac spin. Whether or not the so-called “fall” is economic, nuclear, or otherwise is never explicitly stated, but the idea is that after only ten years society has crumbled. The only semblances of law are roving crews of soldiers-for-hire, who are just trying to scrape-by like everyone else. Enter into all this madness Guy Pearce’s Eric. Suffice to say, he’s no Mad Max. He’s no better or worse than anyone else.

While his backstory is only gradually revealed over the course of the film, he gives off the vibe of being a formerly regular guy who’s utterly lost any sense of compassion or humanity after years of scraping by in this ultra-violent world. His ultimate connection to his stolen car isn’t revealed until much later in the film, but it could be interpreted that it’s a symbol of his former life. It’s certainly not something as simple as being a tool he needs to survive, as it takes him literally seconds to acquire a new vehicle in order to give chase.

Guy Pearce is a pretty consistently underrated actor and it’s nice to see him back in a leading role. This is arguably his best work since John Hillcoat’s THE PROPOSITION, and it’s a hard, ambiguous part. He’s utterly unheroic, nihilistic to the point of being murderous, and possibly only chasing his lost car because it gives him something to do.

Of the two, Robert Pattinson as the neglected Ray is probably easier to like. Simpleminded to the point of being dangerous, Pattinson is really surprising in a role far removed from anything he’s ever done. Often criticized for his vacuous stare, this actually fits Ray to a tee, and he’s incredibly effective in a part that will likely shock his die-hard TWILIGHT-fans, but delight those of us who’ve been wondering if he’d ever get a part that demonstrated some real chops. This is that part.

At times, the relationship between Pearce and Pattinson almost makes this feel like a kind of post-apocalyptic take on "Of Mice & Men", albeit far bleaker to the point that by comparison thematically similar movies like THE ROAD look light and frothy by comparison. This is starkly different from director David Michôd’s last film, the brilliant ANIMAL KINGDOM. While maybe not in the same class as that, THE ROVER is a strong follow-up, reminiscent of many of his Australian contemporaries like Andrew Dominik, and John Hillcoat. It’s bold and uncompromising, but often quite beautiful, with stunning Outback photography by Natasha Braier and a minimal but haunting score by Antony Partos. The bleakness in the material will probably put-off a large chunk of the audience, but those with a little tolerance for the depressing will be rewarded by a truly unconventional piece of speculative sci-fi. Imagine MAD MAX if it had been directed by Andrei Tarkovsky.

Source: JoBlo.com

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