Monday, June 30, 2014

A Reel Review: THE ROVER

Director David Michod’s THE ROVER centers around two actors who are well-known for different reasons. On one hand we have 46 year-old Guy Pearce; one of the most respected method-actors in the business. On the other hand, we have 28 year-old Robert Pattinson; who has become everyone’s favorite punching bag after his shitty acting opposite a shittier actress in the shittiest of movie franchises. How these two actors work together on the big screen determines the fate of THE ROVER.
Ten years after the collapse of society, Eric (Pearce) is travelling through the remains of Australia when his car is stolen by Henry (Scoot McNairy) and his rag-tag group of thieves. Hell-bent on getting his car back, Eric forces Henry’s younger brother Rey (Pattinson) to assist him in hunting the thieves down.

THE ROVER does not have a whole of plot to it. There is no girl to rescue and no safe-haven for humanity in this barren wasteland of society. All the characters have to do is to find the car. What makes it work is that the two characters have different reasons for doing this. Eric’s reasons for getting his car back are very much personal, and are revealed in bits and pieces throughout the hunt (and driven home by the end, more on that later). Rey also has personal reasons; he was left behind by his older brother during a shootout/car theft…and he is out looking for some explanation and maybe even a little revenge. When you have two contrasting characters out on the same mission for different reasons, the stage is set for great storytelling, and director David Michod doesn’t waste a single opportunity to examine, and expose his characters during their hunt for the stolen car.
This car-quest of a movie is very much brought to life by Michod’s commitment to realism. Exactly how society has collapsed is never made clear, and it really doesn’t matter in the grand scheme of things. All that matters is that this part of the world that Eric and Rey travel through is like a third-world county, where people live in shacks with no water or power, and the contents of canned food are like gold. The film looks very real, and you can practically smell the filth and decay coming off the screen. The movie unfolds in an episodic manner; as the two characters travel from one setting to another…most of which end up in some sort of scrape. But each “episode” has a payoff which carries through the rest of the film.  Michod also makes the vast wasteland of Australia very beautiful and deadly to look at. This type of film just could not be shot anywhere else.

Guy Pearce vanishes inside his character as he rampages across the land, breaking necks and shooting people in the face as often as he can. As hell-bent and mean as he is, Pearce always lets us know that there is something else ticking underneath the unkempt beard, grime, and unbreakable mean-streak. Pearce goes deep without showing too much, and it is a stunning performance. As good as he is, this show is stolen by Robert Pattinson. His character is a lost soul; dim-witted and maybe even a little mentally challenged…and Pattinson nails it at every turn. He generates sympathy and disgust towards his character all at the same time, and it is a signal to the world that he is ready to shop in the grown-up section.
After all of the rampaging and pillaging and shooting, exactly why Eric was so determined to get his car back is finally revealed, and just how the ending plays out is dependent upon the personality of the viewer. The most cynical would say “that’s it?” and dismiss it, while those with a heart will understand it perfectly and respect the several layers that the film had going on the whole time. Beautifully put together and brilliantly acted, this ROVER is well worth looking for.


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