Director: David Michôd
Cast: Guy Pearce, Robert Pattinson, Scoot McNairy, Sasha Prior and Gillian Jones
Running Time: 103 minutes
Release Date: August 15th
A curious man, that Guy Pearce. He has all the trappings of a Hollywood leading man but never seemed interested. After early starring roles, he avoided further advances only accepting the call when he was unrecognisable under prostethic makeup or playing a bookish scientist. He opted instead to stay home, forging partnerships, first with John Hillcoat and then with David Michôd, whose Animal Kingdom allowed Pearce a softer side. With The Rover, he’s the polar opposite.
Pearce plays Eric, a quiet and violent man, who has his car stolen when crossing the Australian outback by a bunch of criminals who just boosted some goods from a nearby army base, leaving one of their own, Reynolds (Robert Pattinson, continuing to scrub the Twilight off him), for dead. Eric pursues them with all vigour of a daughter-less Bryan Mills, caring not one bit that he’s outnumbered three-to-one and is completely unarmed. It all takes place in a barren-Australia, ten-years after a financial collapse that has immigrants from all over the world coming to work in the mines.
For a post-apocalyptic world, it’s a pretty familiar one — the whole landscape also happens to be the setting for the third act of The Inbetweeners 2. There’s no explicit exposition-dumping of what exactly happened, just chilling nods to the effects it’s had. Bodies rot on cobbled together crucifixes along stretches of road, household pets became sources of nourishment and the U.S. dollar still remains king; the cause and resolution aren’t important though. Oil and water — if the cast’s look and hygiene are considered — run scarce too.
The Rover, at its essence, is a simple revenge thriller, not unlike the pulpy Europacorp B-movies that saw Pearce go full Bruce Willis while invading a space prison in Lockout. But none of them were directed by David Michôd, who shares the same view on treating his stars as fellow countryman, John Hillcoat. Every character wears a second skin, one made of caked together sweat, dirt and blood; halos of flies hover around them likes decomposing angels; Pearce looks like a grubby Matt Berninger from The National after a self-imposed haircut with a BIC razor; Pattinson spends the duration with a septic gunshot wound.
The two leads give equally staggering performances, creating an unlikely relationship that evolves from captor and hostage to father and son — even with Eric repeatedly telling Reynolds he’s going to kill him throughout. Pearce is raw, primal fury, terrifying both in his drive and time-battered nihilism. A man who nothing to fear or lose is a man to be feared indeed. Pattinson plays Reynold nebbish and a little Sling Blade with a cracked Southern lilt. His attachment to Eric is pathetic yet understandable when considering that being treated with hostility is all he knows.
It does meander a bit, mind. It favours plodding over plot. (It, unexpectantly, features a Keri Hilson song.) But perhaps that’s the point, placing you in the grimy, sand-blasted limbo Eric and Reynold find themselves stuck in. It’s still a hell of a trip.