The Rover (2014)

The RoverTen years have passed since The Collapse, an apparent global economic catastrophe that has rendered the Australian dollar worthless and the country’s citizens dependent on US currency, and Eric (Guy Pearce) is having a drink when his car is stolen by foreigners looking to meet a payday half-way across the desert. He gives chase, tailing them in a damaged 4×4 that the thieves had prematurely written off, until a roadside confrontation leaves him on the ground and unconscious. His borrowed vehicle is recognised at a nearby opium den by the brother of one of the thieves, who had been left for dead in their haste to move on. He’s badly injured, however, and if Eric is to use Rey (Robert Pattinson) to find his stolen car then he is first going to have to patch him up.

On the surface, The Rover doesn’t sound like the most appealing prospect. Another Australian western, dystopian nightmare? The Road-trip with Robert Pattinson? There’s more than enough Man With No Name nonsense coming out of the States, thank you very much, without the land down under getting in on the act. (Eric is named on IMDb, but as far as I can remember not in the film.) The trailer certainly didn’t promise much in the way of narrative, teasing a stoic drive through featureless desert with a silent type and a stuttering simpleton, and by and large it sums the film’s story up rather well. This is ultimately a mood piece, an existential yarn that is more to do with atmosphere than action. Unexpectedly, it’s also excellent — dark, but without being quite as depressing as director David Michôd’s last film, Animal Kingdom.

Equally surprising is the fact that a large part of the film’s success is down to Pattinson himself, who, through his jittery movements and broken sentences, gives the illusion of activity even when nothing is happening, or even threatening to happen. Even from the moment of his introduction, lying bloodied next to a doomed soldier gulping for oxygen like a fish out of water, he brings a precarious unpredictability to proceedings that prior to his arrival had stretched out into distance with no sign of diversion between here and the horizon. It’s an electric performance, and one that’s a million miles away from the polished calm of his Edward Cullen. He doesn’t just make you fear Rey, or even pity him, but genuinely warm to the character.

That’s not to take anything at all away from Pearce. Eric may be less eye-catchingly erratic but he’s still a complex and compelling character, particularly as the film progresses and his backstory is revealed. It’s just that he’s vying for attention in a film full of substantially more memorable characters. There’s Gillian Jones as Grandma, purveyor of opium and pimp to her grandchildren; Susan Prior as Dot, the outback’s chief dog-sitter and gun-totting surgeon; and Scoot McNairy as Rey’s disloyal older brother. Even unnamed characters make an impression disproportionate to their screentime, with Nash Edgerton bringing some much needed morality to proceedings as Town Soldier, Scott Perry breaking your heart in his thirty second role as the aforementioned Dying Soldier, and Richard Green winning you over in his equally shortlived turn as Shopkeeper.

It’s a slight film, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t powerful in its own way. Necessarily visceral, brutal and uncompromising, The Rover also manages to be intelligent, thought-provoking and even occasionally profound. You may not always sympathise with its characters, but that doesn’t mean you can’t understand them. They’re human, often terrifyingly so.

4-Stars

 

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About popcornaddiction
I am a psychology graduate, a News Writer for HeyUGuys/BestforFilm and, most importantly, a hopeless popcorn addict.

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