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Wellington Daily News - Wellington, KS
  • Movie review: ‘The Rover’ is a puzzle

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  • As a follow-up to his auspicious debut film, the gangster family saga “Animal Kingdom,” Australian writer-director David Michod takes us on a post-apocalyptic road trip with “The Rover.” Guy Pearce, who had a supporting role as a cop in “Animal Kingdom,” stars as a “man-with-no-name” type (although the credits list him as Eric) who, after his car is stolen, goes after the three obvious bad guys who did the deed. He is a man we know little about, beyond the fact that he was once a farmer and that he long ago committed a heinous crime that authorities didn’t seem to give a damn about.
    Now, like almost everyone else in the film, he looks sad, beaten down, hopeless. The story takes place, according to a note at the start, “10 years after the collapse.” There’s no more explanation, but it’s safe to assume that’s a reference to the global economy. The only clues we get that something is very wrong are the sights of people hanging out, just eking by; the fact that most of them carry guns; that houses are empty and streets are empty; and that, according to one person, the Australia where this is taking place has become a society where people have learned to live without money.
    Well, not really. There are still money issues (people kill over it), and there’s still commerce, since a long freight train, with armed guards onboard, zooms by on some tracks out in the desert. But for the most part, the post-apocalypse thing remains in the background. This is the story of Pearce’s character doing a man-on-a-mission thing, and that mission consists solely of getting his car back.
    He takes another car, goes after the trio that has his, fearlessly and with determination on his face follows them, even though he’s unarmed, and they’re firing away at him. And then another story sneaks in – that of a fellow named Rey (Robert Pattinson), a simpleton who happens to be the younger brother of the lead car thief Henry (Scoot McNairy), and is first seen in a flashback, on the ground, bleeding profusely from a gunshot wound, having been left behind by Henry.
    It’s a puzzle of a movie, with lots of story pieces scattered around, slowly coming together, but never presenting a complete picture. Yet that’s not a problem, as this is more of a mood piece than a narrative tale. There’s a point where you think it’s going to be a character study of Pearce’s grim guy, but it’s more of a study of the actor’s face and body movements.
    Bits and pieces of his character do slowly peak out, initially when he pulls over to purchase a gun, then he and the seller get to quibbling about the price. Yet he mostly keeps to himself and probably has less dialogue in this starring role than he had in the supporting one in “Animal Kingdom.”
    Page 2 of 2 - A nice treat here is the range that Pattinson shows, having not done much of that in his previous films. Here he plays a guy who was probably more than slightly addled to begin with, later gets even more confused, and winds up being the character that provides the most surprises.
    Writer-director David Michod paints a picture in which the isolation of the Australian countryside becomes its own character, the pace and even everyone’s manner of speaking is very slow, and the sounds accompanying those voices include barking dogs, didgeridoos, and peaceful solo piano. Warning: All of this sits uncomfortable next to brief bursts of awful violence.
    Although very little is explained, it’s clear that most people in the film have accepted that they’re now living in a world where not much makes sense. Michod does give a film a punchline of an ending that actually does explain the motives of the Pearce character. But it’s such an offbeat one, viewers will likely argue over whether or not it works. Here’s hoping there are no fights over it.
    Ed Symkus covers movies for More Content Now.
    THE ROVER
    Written and directed by David Michod
    With Guy Pearce, Robert Pattinson, Scoot McNairy
    Rated R

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