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  Rover, The Guy Stuff
Year: 2014
Director: David Michôd
Stars: Guy Pearce, Robert Pattinson, Scoot McNairy, David Field, Tawanda Manyimo, Susan Prior, Nash Edgerton, Anthony Hayes, Mark Duncan, Richard Green, Gillian Jones, Jamie Fallon, Frank C. Sun, Samuel F. Lee, Gerald Coulthard, Jan Palo, Chan Kien, Tek Kong Lim
Genre: Drama, Thriller, Science FictionBuy from Amazon
Rating:  6 (from 1 vote)
Review: It is ten years after society collapsed in Australia, and what remains of humanity there are eking out an existence in the Outback, dodging the military and relying on American dollars brought over by security forces and immigrants seeking to make a living in such places as the mines. Eric (Guy Pearce) is one of the locals, driving his way across the country on a mission only he cares about, but it is so hot and dry there in the desert landscape that he has to stop regularly for water, never mind more fuel for his car. It is at just one such stop that he is sipping a glass of Adam's ale when he hears a commotion outside: another car has crashed, and the occupants, one of them injured, have taken it upon themselves to steal Eric's car...

Bad move there, boys, as he spends the rest of the movie tracking them down to get it back, for a reason we do not discover till the very last scene. The Rover was director David Michôd's next film after the international success of Animal Kingdom, a gangster movie that took a similarly bleak look at humanity, though in this case the characters were not so much immoral and corrupt because they were gangsters, it was more because the social crisis the world was enduring had made it more acceptable to behave in an entirely self-interested manner, exploiting and even murdering whoever threatened your survival or was simply providing an obstacle to whatever your chosen path was. In that manner, the director did tend to wallow in the lawlessness of it all.

Fortunately there were some strong, unsentimental performances to guide us through this warning about how the planet could fall to rack and ruin over the course of future years, and Guy Pearce (who is called Eric in the credits, but isn't called anything at all in the body of the movie itself) was about as convincing as a man whose ethical compass has been battered out of him by life could be. With his self-cut hair (not too well), scraggly beard, thousand yard stare when at rest and drive to retrieve that vehicle outweighing all his other impulses, he cut a striking figure who has no compunction about buying a gun then shooting the seller dead if it means he doesn't have to pay for it, acts such as that testing the audience's compassion for a soul patently at the end of his tether.

Shortly after being knocked unconscious after a car chase (Eric took the thieves' car), he stumbles across the brother of one of their number, Rey (Robert Pattinson), who has been injured in the side in a skirmish, but is compos mentis enough to be able to tell him he knows where his brother (Scoot McNairy) and the other two have headed for. Thus Rey is practically dragged into this mission at gunpoint, a simple chap who yearns for the simple things in a life that has become complicated with danger since this "collapse" mentioned in the opening title card. Pattinson was by now admirably choosing roles that appeared determined to separate him by about a million light years from the Twilight blockbusters that made his name, most obviously his work with David Cronenberg but also here, going about as far as he could into uglying up his features and demeanour without extensive prosthetics.

Pattinson did appear to think mumbling his lines in a Deep South accent was to his performance's benefit, which certainly immersed him in his character's personality but also made it difficult to work out what the hell he was on about, but then a lot of this could be viewed as vague as to its ultimate point, other than offering an unexpectedly dewy-eyed conclusion. Should you care to examine it more closely you would see that with the breakdown of society a tenuous grasp on finding any worth in simple human decency had been a result as much as the poverty and political upheaval, and curiously it was Eric's rediscovery of that humanity through his goal that provided the heart of a film that at first - even second - glance didn't seem to have one in the slightest. We may see him kill people, but he realises it's important that death should be significant, we should care when someone dies or more pressingly if it's you with the impulse to do the killing, that's what separates us from insects. If The Rover was too one note for its own good, that theme was provocative. Music by Antony Partos.
Reviewer: Graeme Clark


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