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The Rover - Cinemaholic Movie Reviews
one person's obsessive addiction to film
The Rover
Directing: B+
Acting: A-
Writing: B+
Cinematography: B+
Editing: A-

If you've been waiting for proof that Robbert Pattinson can act like something other than a vapid sparkly vampire, The Rover does the job. He is not the title character and doesn't even show up until a few scenes in, but one could say a lot hinges on Rey, a very disturbed young man who has been through, well, too much.

Some may argue that Pattinson overdoes it: Rey is a very nervous character, almost twitchy, just this side of spastic. Unless he's asleep he can't ever hold still. But Pattinson disappears into this role, and I didn't even realize it was him until the credits.

Guy Pearce, now 47 years old, also easily settles into the rugged man of few words, Eric. The film opens with him in a car. Director David Michôd (Animal Kingdom) takes his time with each scene, from moment one. We sit with Eric in his car for a few moments. We follow him as he leaves his car on the side of the road, walks into a shack of a place where he can get water, and he hardly notices a truck rolling as it crashes down the street outside.

This is a near-future Australia, "ten years after the collapse." We don't know precisely what caused "the collapse." Peak Oil, maybe? In any case, resources are scarce. More importantly, there's a pervasive sense of desperation among the few people around. This desperation is underscored by the rural Australian setting, vast barren landscapes with abandoned trailers and a few houses here and there. Such a place wasn't exactly bounding with resources to begin with.

The people in the crashed car have their own problems, which unfortunately make them cross paths with Eric. They can't get their truck to pull out of the spot it's stuck in, so they steal Eric's car. The Rover then becomes a rather different kind of road trip movie, with Eric on these people's tail, single-mindedly seekig to repossess his car.

One of the car thiefs has a brother, who was wounded, left behind in some kind of shootout with local militia, the reasons behind which remain a mystery. All we know is said brother is presumed by the car thiefs to be dead, but said brother is Rey, who is merely wounded. He crosses paths with Eric, and asks what he's doing with his brother's car. Rey knows the thieves, so Eric nabs him as a resource for getting to his car. Eric even goes so far as to get Rey medical attention for his bullet wound.

There aren't really any good guys in this movie. It's tempting to choose someone to root for, but all you can do is feel anxious about what might happen to any one of them. Here and there, people get killed arbitrarily. Here is a world of vast lawlessness, the military humvees and soldiers almost a joke. The soldiers are perhaps even more expendable than the regular, beat-up people dotting the landscape. In one poignant scene, Eric notes what atrocities he has committed, and how "it doesn't matter." People do very bad things in this setting and no one comes after them for it. The only accountability now is old fashioned revenge, with a good helping of collateral damage.

It sounds trite, but Michôd lays it all out in a very compelling manner. Most of The Rover is surprisingly quiet, like Eric himself. Guy Pearce doesn't have a whole lot of lines, for a lead role. But he says a lot with his face alone, a man hardened by years of fighting against being broken. And then, every once in a while, the violence happens. Some suitably startling stuff. It's Mad Max for the 21st Century, only with a realistic bent. Michôd presents a dying world that actually feels within reach.

He doesn't dwell on any of that, however. Story is at the forefront here, with much left to the imagination. It's surprisingly effective, for a movie that looks at first glance like a lot of other movies that have been made before it. But The Rover occupies its own vaguely creepy space.

Guy Pearce and Robert Pattinson are near-future frienemies in THE ROVER.</a>

Overall: B+
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