“The Rover” is the latest Aussie film from David Michod, director of the Australian crime film “Animal Kingdom”.You can imagine after the success of Animal Kingdom the hype surrounding David’s follow-up film and working with Guy Pearce again. The Rover is in the vein of films like Mad Max and the post apocalyptic survival film “The Road”. 10 years after a global economic collapse, a hardened ruthless loner (Guy Pearce), tracks down three men who have stolen his car, his only possession. The stranger navigates through rural South Australia and its desolate landscape with Ray (Robert Pattinson), the wounded brother of Henry (Scoot Mcnairy), one of the men who stole his car.
I saw the film last night and I have very mixed feelings toward it. On one hand I thought it was competently made and showcased The Flinders Rangers and rural South Australia realistically. It conveyed how unforgiving some of the terrain and environment can be. But on the other hands it’s a very slow, bleak and unsympathetic story that has no clear purpose.
The look and sounds of the film were great. The camera work effectively conveys the desolate landscape that our loner finds himself in. A number of scenes in the first and second acts contain really good lighting or should I say, lack there of, making some of the internal shots and the use of shadows very memorable. The subtle nuances in the chilling and unnerving bass/strings score was also a pleasant surprise. The strongest aspect of the film is the acting. I never tire of seeing Guy Pearce in these types of lead roles. He continues to involve himself in Australian projects which is great for everyone involved. Most of the actors that make it in Hollywood never look back so it’s nice to keep one!
Guy is fantastic as this hardened man who appears to have lost everything and is struggling to find his way back to some sort of life. His look was that of a tired rough man, covered in flies and heavily bearded. Topped off with a combination of anguish, regret and anger written all over his face. He maintains the intensity the character requires for the entire running time. The emotionally driven scenes that he was involved in were perfect. Robert Pattinson (best known for the Twilight series), is a solid counterpart as Ray, a very misguided and troubled young man. I think Rob probably did all he could do with this one-dimensional dim-witted character. I think some of his dialogue was pretty muffled (the Texan accent didn’t help), It was hard to understand and his character was just plain dumb. Not much he had to say about anything gave me more of an understanding about who he was or where he had come from. It was disappointing because the success of the film hinges on that.
Unfortunately there isn’t an interesting enough story here. Underneath it all this is a film set in a harsh environment that depicts some of the worst of humanity. Maybe It’s a little bit of a social commentary on where the world might be heading in the future, or at least parts of it. It’s a very slow and grim film that lacks much-needed character development through a lot more dialogue. This amount of mystery and withheld information regarding our two key characters and what they have been through, and are currently going through is the main issue with the film. Minimal dialogue can work sometimes if the emotional punch is their and the scene only requires a look or a certain mannerism. Lack of dialogue can even help build suspense in the right scenario, sadly that isn’t the case with The Rover.
Speaking of suspense, you would aspect with all the eerie sound effects and vast decaying landscape that tension would be at an all time high, alas. Other than one scene at a motel room, The Rover fails to generate any kind of suspense or tension which of course is a key component with these types of Crime/Drama films. The duo of The Loner and Ray is so crucial and it doesn’t really work. I found it hard to believe that these two would have anything in common just from looking at them, regardless of the fact that I didn’t know anything about them until three-quarters way through the film. The character of Ray just isn’t explored at all. Was he a product of a bad upbringing? His brother’s influence? The situation the world was in? or something completely unrelated, I’m not sure about anything. There didn’t have to be any definitive answers, I understand most things are not black and white but they have to at least be partially explored to maintain a level of realism.
The saving grace comes in the form of Guy Pearce’s character because at least he does develop and open up somewhat as the film draws to a close. I’m still not sure there was ever a motive for him tracking these men down. Taking the actions that he does throughout the entire film just to get his car back seems like a lot of work, and maybe just some lazy writing. It’s easy to incorporate another reason for his actions, I suppose we are lead to believe in a world gone to hell you don’t take any crap from anyone when it’s all you have. That’s okay in theory but he has another vehicle that he can get around (haha) and does so for the remainder of the film. There needed to be more, much more to it than just that. The development doesn’t come from anything Guy says, it’s more in his demeanor. For some unknown reason he has sympathy for Ray, either that or he can understand and relate to his situation. My issue is that the two never actually have a conversation long enough to divulge anything really personal about the other and that just seems unrealistic, especially in a world where all you really have left is conversation. The loner seemed far to trusting of Ray when it came to carrying a gun, no one that unpredictable would be given free rein of things, so to speak. I just don’t understand the relationship between the two at all. When the climax of the film rolls around your still left thinking what just happened? and why did it happen? It’s a very sudden and bland ending to 108 minutes with no one really understanding anymore than they did before the whole thing started.
Quentin Tarantino called “The Rover” the best Australian film. He said the same about “Big Bad Wolves” calling it best film of the year and it was one of them for sure. The Rover however is not. Everything from a technical point of view is very impressive and the actors give everything they have got, Pearce is wonderful. All that aside though, it just doesn’t have the required amount of character development and clear purpose that a film like this needs to have to work. To much time is spent looking at the landscape, wide shots driving down open roads and the short pointless conversations that in the end just add up to fluff and expand the running time. No Country For Old Men this is not, is it worth a watch though? Yes. It showcases our country and the state of SA and contains some top-notch acting, but that’s about all it contains.
My rating for “The Rover” is 5.5/10