The Rover

Amid the bleak post-apocalyptic landscape in The Rover is a sequence in which a disheveled Robert Pattinson sits alone in a car, listening to “Pretty Girl Rock” by Keri Hilson, and singing along in an American twang to the refrain: “Don’t hate me ’cause I’m beautiful.”

That throwaway scene provides a rare humorous respite within the despair and desolation in this low-budget Australian thriller from director David Michod (Animal Kingdom), which generates enough character-driven suspense to overcome its familiar genre trappings.

Plus, Pattinson provides ample proof in that one minute of his attempts to prove his worth and distance himself from his Twilight days.

The story takes place in the Outback 10 years after “the collapse” — which is left otherwise unexplained — when a former soldier named Eric (Guy Pearce) begins chasing a gangster (Scoot McNairy) and two accomplices who stole the car that just happens to be his only remaining possession.

The ensuing pursuit is filled with violent confrontations in which guns are drawn without much provocation, and money and material possessions are at a premium. A potential breakthrough comes when Eric encounters Rey (Pattinson), the troubled brother of one of the thieves who has been left for dead. Their reluctant partnership could be mutually beneficial as they each seek vengeance without remorse.

Michod’s deliberately paced script conveys a vivid portrait of an anarchic world fueled by testosterone and socioeconomic ruin, in which the survivors desperately carry around weapons like children with teddy bears, with no room to trust outsiders and no fear of killing.

The film should have been less vague about the parameters in which its story exists, which might have granted it more emotional resonance. However, Michod avoids predictability — with the help of an unsettling music score — and finds a balance between the dark humor and the shocking brutality of the material. Pearce and Pattinson deliver visceral performances as uneasy allies.

It’s difficult to find redeeming qualities in most of the supporting characters, except perhaps for open-carry firearm proponents. Still, the lack of sympathy doesn’t make them any less compelling.

The Rover deals with the sort of vigilante revenge and frontier justice that qualify it as a kind of futuristic Western, complete with an obligatory final showdown. The bloodbath left in its wake is both exhilarating and exhausting.

 

Rated R, 102 minutes.

  • sipper

    This second film of Michod’s after Animal Kingdom had a lot of people waiting for The Rover. The movie uses references about the reliance of Australia on the mining industry and China,s importance as a market for coal and iron ore. Its use of the area around the Flinders Ranges is great and you can smell the heat and dust. Things like the Asian run motels and road side bars also reference the multicultural business areas in Australia’s major cities. As an local I think this vision is not too far off the mark. The major populated areas will quickly give up on rural areas and a few conract soldiers will be the only law there is. The final scene where Pierce and Pattisons’s characters finally catch up with the crew who steal the car is very hard to watch. I was not disappointed.