The Rover (A24, R)

film the-rover_smThe Rover is perfectly enjoyable while you’re watching it, but at the same time it’s awfully predictable and nearly immediately forgettable.




film the-rover

Though it seems like another one of those films we’ve seen a lot of lately, coming from directors such John Hillcoat and Andrew Dominik, there’s more of a demand for David Michôd’s The Rover than most of the above directors’ output, as it’s his first film since 2010’s Animal Kingdom. Animal Kingdom is arguably the highest-esteemed film to come from this wave of movies from manly Australian directors, and is primarily remembered for its fierce performance from Jacki Weaver. With The Rover, Michôd teams with Guy Pearce, here staying close to his Australian roots and leaving any semblance of Ed Exley behind, and Robert Pattinson, who seems to be calculatedly making an attempt to distance himself from anything remotely similar to the Twilight movies that made him so famous.

Handy, too, since Pattinson can act: He’s the best thing about The Rover. The plot feels awfully generic and spare: A tough loner, Eric (Pearce), gets his car stolen by a trio of criminals and goes to undue efforts to get it back. But this is more a movie about atmosphere, which in this case is the menace of a crime-ridden outback. It perhaps bears a few too many similarities to Hillcoat’s The Proposition and The Road, but there’s plenty to mine from this field.

Eric picks up Rey (Pattinson) along the way, who is the brother of one of the car thieves and who was left for dead by the gang around the time of the grand theft auto. Rey’s got some things wrong with him and Pattinson plays it well, clearly being slightly off and potentially incapable of anything useful, but still an interesting loose cannon. It’s a performance akin (but not quite equal to) Casey Affleck’s in The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford, with perhaps a little Sling Blade–era Billy Bob Thornton thrown in. Rey is Eric’s key to tracking down the gang of thugs and his car, so while it isn’t terribly clear if he’s to be trusted (aside from his familial connection to the car thieves, he doesn’t seem too smart, either), Eric doesn’t have much of a choice but to let Rey tag along.

The Rover is perfectly enjoyable while you’re watching it, but at the same time it’s awfully predictable and nearly immediately forgettable; I have trouble imagining anyone getting too excited about this movie who isn’t forcing himself to do so. But that said, it’s a solid entry in this new strain of testosterone-driven, pseudo-apocalyptic movies. | Pete Timmermann

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