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The Rover – film review

June 18, 2014

THE ROVER

Fury Road

Reviewed on Thursday 12th June 2014

guy-pearce-in-the-rover-movie

Directed by David Michôd. Screenplay by David Michôd, story by David Michôd & Joel Edgerton. Starring: Guy Pearce, Robert Pattinson and Scoot McNairy. Running time: 103 mins.

Animal Kingdom director David Michôd helms this gripping aussie outback crime thriller/road movie (set ten years after the global collapse of Western society) in which Guy Pearce plays an unnamed grizzled drifter whose car is stolen by a trio of outlaws (David Field, Tawanda Manyimo and Scoot McNairy) – who then gives chase with the help of one of the outlaws’ younger brother (Robert Pattinson) – a halfwit who was wounded and left to die during an earlier roadside skirmish. During the course of     the cross-country pursuit; Pearce attempts to sway Pattinson against his brother – ultimately leading to a violent confrontation.

Guy Pearce gives a powerful and at times moving performance – while Robert Pattinson (who admirably attempts something different here) – is virtually unintelligible for most of the time; playing a half-wit red-neck American with an inpenetrable hillbilly accent and bad teeth (like some inbred refugee from the set       of Deliverance). It is this extreme disparity between the personas of Pattinson and Scoot McNairy (playing his brother) which raises the question – if these two are indeed so closely related – then why are they so wildly different? This is really the only aspect of the entire film where a modicum of exposition might not go astray       in fixing this jarring incongruity (perhaps it could be as simple as a single line of dialogue hinting at the fact they might be half-brothers?).

As with his gritty feature debut; Michôd again fashions a fully-realized and believable setting in which to immerse his characters. The sense of decay and degradation       in The Rover is palpable; and the broke-down world depicted here could easily be viewed as a kind of second cousin precursor to the borderline anarchy seen in the original Mad Max (just prior to when the gangs take over the highways, perhaps). Indeed, Michôd’s attention to detail – as far as his world-building is concerned – is a big part of The Rover’s appeal: a framed photo on a motel wall shows city lights at night – perhaps a reminder of how society was before the collapse; petrol is sold at fifty bucks a jerry can – but only in US dollars; rounds of ammunition are freely available for purchase at every stop; abandoned dogs are kept in cages for safe-keeping in order to stop them being taken for food; a trading post store owner coerces visitors at gunpoint to buy items they don’t want or need; machine-gun-toting hoods ride shotgun on the carriages of ore trains. Interestingly, there are no cell phones to be seen anywhere in this world – suggesting that mobile networks are no longer functioning. And the only semblance of order in this chaotic pseudo wild west is supposedly provided by paramilitary patrols in army-style Humvees; who seem less interested (or capable) in maintaining order than they are in filling monthly quotas for their corporate bosses in Sydney.

There are moments of jolting violence scattered throughout the film which often errupt without warning – frequently occurring mid-sentence which, thanks to David Michôd’s direction and Peter Sciberras’ editing – contributes greatly to the overall sense of unease which permeates the film. The stark lensing by Natasha Braier gives the aussie outback a washed-out look – augmenting the harshness of these landscapes (the very same landscapes, by the way, which also feature as backdrops in both   Wolf Creek films). And the mostly atonal score by Antony Partos lends an unsettling air to proceedings and nicely heightens the desolation found in these uniquely South Australian locales.

Despite the incongruous and bizarre Deliverance-style persona adopted by Robert Pattinson (the film’s only significant flaw) – The Rover is still a gritty and intense     road movie/western/thriller – featuring a terrific performance from Guy Pearce and taut direction by David Michôd.

4 stars out of 5

Star ratings: 1 – poor / 2 – below average / 3 – good / 4 – excellent / 5 – unmissable

Viewed at the Event Cinemas Megaplex Marion, Adelaide, June 12th 2014.

Greg Moss is a film school graduate with a background in directing music videos     and is currently seeking representation as a screenwriter. He likes creative people, feeding the cat and watching genre movies. Greg can also be heard on the Blu-ray commentary track for the 1980 sci-fi thriller Saturn 3, out now from Scream Factory.

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