“The Rover” – a film review by Gary Chew
As it begins, David Michŏd’s movie “The Rover” puts you in a state of mind like Stanley Kramer’s film of Nevil Shute’s novel “On The Beach.” Yes you’re in Australia, but not following a nuclear holocaust encompassing all the planet except for Down Under. This calamity is a bit into the future and 10 years subsequent to a worldwide economic collapse.
“The Rover” takes place on the arid, rural Out Back — not the sea and a submarine crews’ visit to a lifeless San Francisco and the Bay Area. The end of the world is coming in a much more gradual, if not relaxed, fashion in “The Rover” than for Gregory Peck, Ava Gardener, Anthony Perkins and Fred Astaire in 1959.
Guy Pearce plays Eric, an enraged, former Australian farmer whose sedan is stolen by three other men in deep trouble trying, like Eric, to stay alive. Eric believes he’ll get the car back as he chases the thieves driving the pickup they’ve abandoned.
The narrative moves and carries such hopelessness that you may think you’re having a dream written by Cormac McCarthy; but it was Michŏd who did the script. The story, which is not a dream, comes from Michŏd and Joel Edgerton.
As the chase begins, Eric happens onto Rey, played by Robert Pattinson. Rey has been left for dead by the car thieves. He seems as if he might be retarded, if not merely a young man with a low IQ. Pattinson’s performance shows real stretching on his part since he’s not portraying a sharp toothed creature out for blood. For me though, Guy Pearce is upstaged by no one. So the power of “The Rover” flows from his performance.
Every character appears to be suffering from Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder; even the physician who mends and soothes Rey’s severe stomach wound is on the very edge. She wants no payment for the medical service she provides, telling Rey and Eric she’s learned well how to live without the use of money.
Eric discovers several caged and ailing dogs in an out building on the medical woman’s property. The doctor says she’s taken in the dogs from people who are fleeing the region. Eureka, someone with a sense of decency left in their soul. The scene gave me goose bumps of a strange sort of joy.
Numerous characters in “The Rover” are shot dead at nearly point blank range as well as from some distance. Eric and Rey carry out lots of the slaughter. All this mayhem left me with a stark and empty feeling that it’s possible people today who think they must openly carry heavy weapons into a local McDonald’s or Arbie’s may “enjoy” this picture. Heck, it may even get a thumbs-up from Wayne LaPierre and Reince Priebus.
“The Rover’s” payoff — not to be revealed — is pregnant with the irony of things that can be contained, simultaneously, in the heart and soul of a desperate human being who has lost everything.