Wednesday, June 25, 2014

The Rover

THE ROVER: Guy Pearce, Robert Pattinson, directed by David Michod (103 min.)

There is nothing cheery about The Rover, director David Michod's follow up to his searing Aussie crime drama Animal KingdomThe Rover is bleak, depressing, violent, and altogether captivating thanks to two intensely focused performances from Guy Pearce and Robert Pattinson.  Australian crime thrillers like The Rover rarely come with brightness or hope, and this picture carries misery in spades.  This may not be the most glowing picture to paint for a film, as most of us go to be entertained and enjoy escapist thrills, but there is a place for the dark and dreary in cinema.  For those able to find enjoyment in morally desolate filmmaking, here is a film that captivates.

As the title card explains at the outset, The Rover takes place in Australia ten years after "the collapse."  Society has crumbled to a point of barely hanging on, at least in the Outback where things surely weren't bustling beforehand.  This may be somewhere around 2030, but it may as well be the Old West.  Eric (Pearce) is a hardened loner, a personification of the harsh landscape surrounding him.  Disheveled, bearded and dirty, Eric wants no company, has no friends, desires almost nothing.  But his car is stolen by three ne'er do wells who crash their own truck outside a dilapidated bar where he is having a drink.  The three men are fleeing the scene of a shootout, or something along those lines, none of which is fully explained.  Eric manages to get their truck up and running and pursues the men.  All he wants is his car back, but the trio refuse to return it.  They knock him out cold and leave him on the side of the road, but Eric will not stop until his car is returned and vengeance is taken.

Along his pursuit, Eric runs into Rey (Pattinson), a dim-witted American who is brothers with one of the three men and was shot and left for dead in the unexplained altercation.  Eric gets Rey to a doctor so he can have his wound cleaned and dressed, but not because he cares at all for Rey.  He simply needs Rey to take him to his brother.  The rest of the film is the journey of these two men, where horrible things unfold and very little is made in the way of forward progress regarding their relationship.  Eric is practically soulless, his eyes containing nothing more than rage and sadness, and no matter how much Rey tries to create companionship between them in his simple-minded conversations, Eric refuses to succumb. 

The plot is thin and nothing more than a device to showcase two more important aspects of the film: The World and the performances.  This universe of societal collapse is unsettling, and the people who God has left behind here seem to have let the despair get the better of them.  There is a distinct Asian influence to the population. In the search for his car, Eric also runs across a strange and disturbing house where an old woman speaks obtusely while offering up young boys to Eric.  The ruin of the world has subsequently ruined the minds and hearts of the people remaining. 

Guy Pearce's performance is spare and captivating, a work more of eyes and cold stares than words.  His single-minded determination is the dark, polar opposite to Pattinson's simplistic and warm characterization of Rey.  I have enjoyed watching Robert Pattinson continue to shed his glamour doll image form the Twilight films by tackling roles in films like this.  He is a talented actor and his role his is unlike anything I have seen from him thus far. 

The Rover is also shockingly violent at times to match the bleak nature of the landscape, but for the right audience there is plenty to enjoy here.  It isn't for everyone, but it is most certainly a captivating picture rife with performances that create tension and make for a harrowing story.