“Just walk away and there will be an end to the horror… just walk away”.
That’s a line from Mad Max 2 (or South Park depending on which one you saw first) which is also an Australian film set in post societal break down world. That’s pretty much where the similarities end but things in The Rover could have been so much simpler if everyone just “walked away” when Guy Pearce asks.
Guy Pearce plays a man, who is identified in the credits as Eric but remains nameless throughout, who’s car is stolen by a group of fleeing criminals and begins a countrywide chase to retrieve it. Along the way he comes across Rey (Robert Pattinson), the brother of one of the criminals, who was left to die in whatever robbery they took part in. Travelling together Eric and Rey share an uneasy bond where both want to get to the same place for different reasons.
David Michod’s follow up to the impressive, if slightly over-rated Animal Kingdom is an wantonly idiosyncratic affair. The bleached out, dry as bone landscapes hark back to films like Wake in Fright and even the aforementioned Mad Max 2. The characters live in tough world where money means very little and the lands is littered with one-horse town’s rather than thriving cities. Guy Pearce’s Eric is a silent whirlwind of anger and potential violence. His dialogue reveals little other than to let people know his mission. Robert Pattinson on the other hand, rocking a southern American drawl, is a fountain of conversation in comparison. Rey has learning difficulties and struggles to keep up in the kill or be killed world he now lives in. His time spent with Eric is both a blessing and a danger to him as he learns to stand up for himself.
The film plays best in it’s moments of cat and mouse thriller. An early scene with Eric following the car-jackers feels like a parred down and tenser version of Duel. Other sequences involving sieges and shoot outs are genuinely exciting. Michod as a director know how to stage these scenes with one hand tied behind his back. Where The Rover sometimes falls down is the script. Eric’s reason for relentlessly pursuing his stolen car is never mentioned until the films climax. Treating the reason more as a MacGuffin than a plot point it does lead to a somewhat unsatisfactory conclusion. The road movie structure also leads to a host of support characters popping in to say something overly meaningful or just down right obtuse. At times The Rover veers into acid-trip odyssey but remains far too much a grim chase thriller for these moments to really gel.
It’s a bold film nonetheless and should be celebrated for trying to shake up the formula a bit. The performances are universally strong. As he ages Pearce is becoming the master of silent rage to match his more pantomime performance such as Lawless. Pattinson too fills Rey with a sympathetic edge that belays his criminal swagger. The rest of the cast are filled with actors chosen as much for there faces as their acting chops.
The Rover is available now on DVD and Blu-Ray via Entertainment One.