The world has collapsed and in this dystopian near future, we meet Eric (Guy Pearce). A quiet man driving down a seemingly barren road in the Australian Outback, Eric’s journey is equally empty. His car is stolen by three men and, despite having other means of transportation; Eric hunts these fellows down through gunfire, desert and whatever is left of society. Along the way, he brings along Rey (Robert Pattinson), the brother of one of three men and somebody not quite able to take care of himself.
The Rover has the look of an engaging picture. Directed by David Michod (Animal Kingdom), the movie has a stark, grungy look and atmosphere. The world he creates with fellow screenwriter Joel Edgerton (best known for his acting in Warrior) is a palpably dangerous one. The daytime is hot and the landscape allows for enemies to see you from a distance. Nighttime is no better, with a thick darkness that allows for anyone to sneak-up on you with ease.
Shame the film itself is a lackluster, laborious affair of scattered ideas and misplaced masculinity. This is a macho movie, embarrassingly so at times. Pearce’s character, which is never actually named in the film itself, will occasionally ramble on about his personal philosophies on mankind. After Pattinson’s character accidentally kills someone and fears he won’t forget the incident, Pearce chimes in that the struggle is a good thing. A man should never forget the cost of taking a life, a fact that barely resonates elsewhere as Pearce coolly blasts his way through the world, shooting in the head whomever prevents him from getting his car back. His literal haggling method is shooting a person in the face.
Elsewhere we have the wonderful depiction of women in The Rover. Women in the movie are basically weirdos or doctors, though occasionally they get to be objects caught in the crossfire. They also get to mentioned as c*nts, a source of “fingering” or “the hole you came from.” Endearing.
Over 100 minutes, Michod drags us through the ruins. Yes, it’s nice that the movie doesn’t waste time on a convoluted back-story of how everything came apart. It does waste time with plenty else, throwing in hectic speed-bumps to plump up a thin tale. These don’t round out the characters in any meaningful fashion. Hell, characters is being generous; Pearce and the gang are barely even archetypes. Pearce has a convincing loathful stare as Pattinson plays a dystopian noble fool, stuttering though his words and fumbling as he walks.
This is all frustrating because Michod clearly has talent. He knows when to let the silence of a scene build tension, as he does in the movie’s final confrontation. The film is pretty to look at, but it’s set in the Outback and you’d pretty much have to be produced by Jerry Bruckheimer to make that setting anything short of impressive. It’s a new coat of paint on an old yarn; a retread not worth diving into.
The Rover is now playing in Seattle.