"The Rover" Movie Review: 3 1/2 Stars
by Kenneth Turan
Don't take Eric's car. Don't take Eric's car. Don't take Eric's ... You get the idea.
Masterfully brought to life by
Michod's name may not be familiar, but his debut film, "Animal Kingdom," was one of 2010's great successes. This second venture, though very different, confirms the Australian director (who wrote the script and shares story credit with
"The Rover's" spare, uncompromisingly bleak setting is a very particular one, a time 10 years after an economic collapse that is both unnervingly familiar yet dangerous, deranged and even malevolent in a way we have not experienced.
"I didn't want to do a post-apocalypse movie; I didn't want the world reduced to total anarchy," the Australian director explained at
Being physically located in the Flinders Ranges area of the South Australian outback, a place where temperatures regularly go so high that Michod worried his actors might literally die, gives this film its specific sensibility.
Empty but not deserted, the universe of "The Rover" is populated by individuals exhausted by heat and despair. Seriously unhinged by civilization's collapse (and atmospherically photographed by cinematographer
Into this area that's been drained of energy and purpose as well as people comes Pearce's Eric. He's a bearded, sweaty, sun-burnt sunburned man, a hollowed-out, fierce-eyed individual whose thousand-yard stare could solidify molten lava.
It is the merest happenstance that involves Eric with a gang of thieves, led by Henry (the shape-shifting Scoot McNairy), who are fleeing a botched robbery. Henry is distraught because his wounded brother Rey has been left behind at the scene of the crime, and the tensions of the moment lead to an accident that puts the gang in immediate need of another vehicle. Eric's is right there, and they take it. Big mistake.
Like the proverbial dog with a bone, Eric is incapable of being dissuaded in his unrelenting quest to get his car back. Though the film eventually offers a reason for Eric's determination, in a larger sense, it's almost as if the search for his vehicle gives this burned-out man a purpose in life, a reason to go on living.
After repeatedly questioning everyone he meets, endlessly repeating "I'm looking for my car" in a quiet monotone, Eric catches a break when he comes across Henry's discarded, seriously wounded brother Rey (an unrecognizable
Eric locates what passes for the local doctor (no easy task in this savage universe) and has Rey patched up, not out of any sense of altruism but because he knows that Rey is the best source of information about his brother. But it's not fated to be as simple as that.
Convincingly played by Pattinson, in a role that's as far from the "Twilight" series as he could possibly get, Rey is the polar opposite of the laser-beam Eric. Damaged, twitchy, unfocused, he is a lost soul, and his evolving relationship with Eric provides an intriguing counterpoint to that man's ferocious quest.
There is nothing noble about Eric's mission or about the considerable violence he resorts to get the job done, but Pearce's willingness to give him an integrity of purpose mixes well with Michod's intense, controlled direction and his ability to blend unexpected, empathetic character moments with all the killing. It's a combination that all but guarantees that "The Rover" will put you away.
MPAA rating: R (for language and some bloody violence)
Running time: 1:42.
"The Rover" Movie Trailer
Set in a world 10 years following the collapse of society. The rule of the law has disintegrated and life is cheap. The film follows hardened loner Eric as he travels the desolate towns and roads of the outback. When a gang of thieves steals his car they leave behind a wounded Rey in their wake.
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'The Rover' Movie Review & Movie Trailer