- RatedNC16 /GenreDrama
An opening title to ‘The Rover’, David Michod's highly anticipated follow-up to ‘Animal Kingdom’, reveals to the audience that it has been 10 years before the “collapse” – which could be economic or otherwise – as a nameless and rugged man played by Guy Pearce stops for rest at a roadside shack run by seemingly restless Asians, with a languid Thai pop song playing in the background.
The camera lingers on Pearce’s expressionless face for a long time.
Film credits list his character’s name as Eric, but his name is never verbalised or mentioned at all in the entire film.
Three gun-toting men, supposedly on a run after a heist gone wrong, are driving frantically in their getaway truck when they crashed near the shack. Two of them are brothers – Henry the leader (played by Scoot McNairy) and his dimwitted sibling Rey (Robert Pattinson).
The men steal Eric’s car and drive away with it, which kickstarts a chain reaction of events that ultimately turns out to be a really bad decision for the gang.
Eric belongs to that tradition of hard-to-kill toughies personified by the likes of Mel Gibson and Clint Eastwood in many action movies – the only difference being the mystery of his motivations behind his actions.
The patient viewer will be rewarded as they unfold towards the end of the film. Revealing more here would be a spoiler.
GREAT CHEMISTRY AND ACTING
Pattison really surprises in his role here and delivers what could be his career best performance as the twitchy dimwit with a really hard-to-hear yokel accent.
The contrast between him and Eric, who has an air of fearlessness and quiet impassive cruelty, is great, as they play abductee and abductor.
This pairing of two complete opposites is not quite unlike the odd coupling of Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid in the traditional western film, and there is true affection and chemistry between the two, which is itself uncanny even in the lawless world in which they live.
The “law” is the military, and they are portrayed not too kindly, always posing a threat for the two protagonists.
NOT MUCH ACTION, PLOT
There is action and gunfire but those scenes are few. Very little information is given about this dystopian future throughout the entire journey of the two men.
Little details and character traits are dropped only at opportune moments and you might miss it if you so much as blink your eye or are distracted.
“Not everything has to be about something” says Rey at one juncture, and it is not too much to suggest that director David Michod, in experimental mode and expanding his canvass after the success of his directorial debut ‘Animal Kingdom’, is really making a film about “nothing”.
Indeed, one of the key shortcomings of the film is that the story and plot are not substantial enough.
Otherwise, ‘The Rover’ is meant to be an experience, not so much a strong story delivered on a platter. And if you do not appreciate the black humour, the beautifully filmed landscapes of the outback, then this slow-burning character study will challenge and test your patience greatly.
‘The Rover’ is now showing in cinemas