Well, Mr. Cullen’s starring in this, so I guess I’m obligated to say something witty about Twilight here. Guy Pearce, Robert Pattinson and Scoot McNairy star in The Rover.
Director – David Michod
Screenplay – David Michod
Producer – Liz Watts, David Linde & David Michod
Rated R for language and some bloody violence
10 years after a global economic collapse, the people have all moved to Australia, where the American dollar is the most common currency. Following a botched robbery attempt, Archie (David Field), Caleb (Tawanda Manyimo) and Henry (Scoot McNairy) flee the scene, leaving behind Henry’s injured brother Rey (Robert Pattinson).
Eventually caught in the middle of these thieves is loner Eric (Guy Pearce), who has his car stolen by the three. Eric finds Rey left alone to fend for himself, and forces him to track back the gang, so that he can reclaim the one thing left that matters most to him.
Writer/director David Michod is no stranger to dark and bleak films having filmed the terrific Animal Kingdom back in 2010. The Rover is another bleak tale from Michod about a dystopian future that’s more about the characters than the story itself. The post-apocalyptic, dystopian setting isn’t exactly fresh; in fact, there seems to have been about 50 million of those films in just the past two years. What sets this film apart is that Michod wisely avoids any obligatory flashbacks to what may have brought about what is known as “the collapse”. Right from the start, we’re told this is 10 years after the collapse, and the story takes it from there, keeping its focus on the two central characters of Eric and Rey. Some may be turned off by not having a definitive answer for how it got so bad, but it’s unnecessary to go that route. This is about the effect and not the cause, the human condition and how people would behave in a world where society and laws are nonexistent.
Simply put, Guy Pearce was born to play these types of roles. I’m convinced he literally came out of his mother’s womb looking like he hasn’t bathed in years, bearing a scruffy beard and a patchy head of hair. I can’t say much about certain developments to his character without giving stuff away, but there’s a scene halfway through the film where he explains why he’s become the way he is that’s truly compelling.
It’s Robert Pattinson, though, that hits it clear out of the park. Of course, Pattinson gets a lot of crap for the Twilight films, but being totally fair, it’s not his fault. He was just accepting another job. Those films would’ve sucked whether he was in them or not. To his credit, post-Twilight – much like Emma Watson has been doing following the Harry Potter series – he’s been making smart choices in an effort to distance himself from the stench that is those Stephenie Meyer adaptations. Not every film has worked, but he’s at least made an effort to challenge himself (such as working with director David Cronenberg). This is a fantastic performance from him that’s not easy to pull off. Rey isn’t the brightest bulb in the box, and has a stuttering speech impediment. Pattinson could’ve taken his performance “up to 11”, but he rides that fine line between believability and overboard with his ticks, mannerisms and stutters that fits perfectly. At times, he believes he has the upper hand against other characters, and that evokes a sadness that we genuinely feel for in knowing that he clearly doesn’t. It’s the moment where Eric drills into Rey’s head that his brother abandoned him where we see just how vulnerable he is. He refuses to believe it at first, but slowly begins to believe he lost the love of his brother – the only thing he had left in this damaged world. The way Pattinson handles that scene is heartbreaking.
Bottom line, I guess this puts me on Team Edward ’cause if Abduction is all that Team Jacob’s got going for it – yeah, that should speak for itself.
Why over just a car, you ask? Well, do you really expect rationale to prevail in a world completely ravaged by a collapse? When you throw law, order and structure out the window, rhyme and reason go out with it and desperation takes over. In this world, people are willing to shoot you dead without hesitation over even the littlest things. There’s a simplicity to Michod’s narrative that works and both he and cinematographer Natasha Braier create such a haunting and depressing world. Sometimes it’s the quietest still shots that grab your attention the most. The final scene of the movie felt unnecessary in that it tries to exchange some of the mystery behind Eric’s character I found quite effective with a resolution, but Michod creates such flawed, engaging characters and a tonal consistency that had me hooked from the get-go, so the flaws can be forgiven.
Just a quick note to all you Twihard R-Pats fans. At a certain screening, a publicist thought it’d be a great idea to show this to some diehard Pattinson lovers, and the reception from them wasn’t well received. If you’re expecting to be swept off your feet by a heartthrob, think again. It’s a great performance, mind you, but I wasn’t saying it lightly when I said this is a bleak and depressing film.
Then again, so was Twilight, but for all the wrong reasons.
It’s a slow burn with a paper-thin plot and the occasional dead spot, but David Michod more than makes up for the flaws with the violent, gritty and desperate world – a mixture of post-apocalyptic and western – he’s created and he paces the suspense and tension just right. Driven by two fantastic lead performances from both Guy Pearce and Robert Pattinson, with a strong, smaller supporting turn from Scoot McNairy, Michod’s followup to Animal Kingdom is most importantly a reminder that he’s a name to keep a lookout for.
I give The Rover a B+ (★★★).