Film Review – The Rover (Second Take)
David Michôd’s follow-up to the award-winning Animal Kingdom is The Rover. Like Animal Kingdom, it is also set in Australia, but the film is bleaker and has less characters. The Rover is set ten years after “the collapse.” It is never explained more than that and any details about why the people and the country are in a state of decay. The main character is Eric (Guy Pearce), and he is “The Rover.” He seems to be moving town to town (or shack to shack) in search of something or possibly just trying to survive.
Unfortunately, Eric’s life becomes majorly complicated when three thieves steal his car after they have gotten their truck stuck. I must deviate to focus on this scene, as it is quite bothersome that the truck appears to have gotten stuck on a handful of wound-up plastic piping. As the truck struggles to get free, those pipes very easily move up and down, but in a time of collapse, no time can be wasted on such small details. Stealing another car seems like a great solution. Anyways, these three guys steal Eric’s car, but they have clearly messed with the wrong person. Seemingly without anything to live for, Eric plays chicken with them in their easily freed truck that he is now driving. He does not get the car back on that day.
Eric is so obsessed with getting his car back that this is what the entire film is about. He must exact revenge on those who stole it and get the car back. As luck would have it he stumbles on the injured brother of one of the three men. Rey (Robert Pattinson) becomes a hostage of Eric and he is the key to finding Eric’s car. After coming to an understanding or a misguided trust, Rey and Eric continue in their journey to find the car.
While the plot is simple, it is also maddening. The rest of the film will be monopolized by the thought of, “What the hell is in that car that he needs to get back so bad?” Revealing the answer will put you out of your misery as you watch it, but we should all have the same frustrating thought the entire film. Michôd obviously does this to us for a reason.
Guy Pearce, of course, is fantastic and the desolation of the film gives him ample room to stretch his acting legs to see how much desperation can be portrayed in a man so seemingly unafraid of everything. Robert Pattinson takes on a supporting role. What is never seen in the trailers or any of the clips is that Rey is a bit mentally-handicapped. The handicap is not apparent straight off because of what can only be described as an American Southern accent version of an Australian accent. He is difficult to understand at times. Even with the handicap and accent, Rey has an intertwined sense of morality and survival. At times, he is innocent-like, but he is also capable of committing crimes with no remorse. Needless to say, Robert Pattinson is losing his Twilight stain.
The other important characters in the film are the landscape and the music. The dusty, dirty, worn-down world that surrounds Rey and Eric is a constant reminder of what is going on around them. It helps convey desperation and loss of hope. It is unforgiving. The music or score (by Antony Partos) used in the film is very distinct, from drum beats to electric guitars, it continuously changes. There is no constant theme. The use of a Vietnamese/Thai song and Keri Hilson’s “Pretty Girl Rock” illustrates that Michôd is not here to follow convention.
The Rover does not have a lot of lines, and it can be compared to Nicolas Winding Refn’s Drive in that sense. The actors are not just staring at each other for minutes, but the conversation is kept to a minimum. Michôd focuses intensely on Eric’s journey. Even as the end credits start, both Eric and Rey are not fully explained in terms of their motives and purpose. However, the ending does leaps and bounds for justifying and increasing the likability of the film. Some will find the ending laughable, but those with a heart like this reviewer will find Eric honorable in his actions in some crazy, end of world way.