Film Review – The Rover (2014)

Guy Pearce is...

Guy Pearce is…

The Rover

Directed by David Michôd

Starring Guy Pearce, Robert Pattinson

Review by Jordan

Before you decide to visit the desolated Australian outback, populated by inhospitable outlaws and emitting the general stench of death 10 years after it has been reduced to rubble, here are some things you need to know:

  1. A gun will cost you $300 American, non-negotiable. Actually, no price is negotiable, so once you’ve tried once there really is no point trying again. Still, if you don’t have the money (or even worse, only have Australian money) don’t fret, there are other means of obtaining one.
  2. Never directly answer anyone’s questions, and if possible try responding to them with a question of your own. This will make for some riveting conversations and is a preferred way of passing the time when there are no comfortable patches of dirt around to nap on.
  3. Never steal a man’s Holden Commodore. Since the first Commodore rolled out of the Holden factory in the 1940’s, it has been a favourite pastime of those in the lower socio-economic sphere to steal them for some cheap thrills, but in the dystopian outback this can result in far worse than a petty fine or a brief stint in prison.

Co-written by top Australian export Joel Edgerton and directed by the highly competent man behind Animal Kingdom, The Rover doesn’t take long informing the audience of the above information and takes an even lesser amount of time proving that it will be a disappointment as big as the land its thread-bare story takes place in. OK, so it’s not a terrible film, nor is it really a bad one… in fact as a slow-burner punctuated with bursts of graphic violence and black humour it is quite good, but with such promise attached to it and the capacity to be a significant achievement on a level not seen since The Road Warrior drove into town, being “quite good” simply isn’t enough to warrant a position in the annals of important local films.

The brooding story follows Eric (Pearce), a lonesome drifter whose car is stolen by a gang of outlaws who he sets out on a mission to track down, aided by the badly injured brother of one of these men Rey (Pattinson), with whom he forms an unlikely, and perhaps rather loose bond. Both Pearce and Pattinson excel in their unglamorous roles, with Pattinson in particular doing well to shake his Hollywood image embodying a physically unhinged character in which most of The Rover’s interest is placed. The Rover himself, however, is not a man who is easy to root for: being a cold-hearted, cold-blooded murderer without a conscience who would place the life of a dog above that of a person.

He is not an anti-hero, and certainly isn’t a hero, but rather exists as an unattached shell in which purpose is needed but never realized. The objective for which he has journeyed is finally revealed at the film’s end, despite appearing to be a macguffin, and is comparable to a punchline-seeking Tropfest entry in terms of impact, being at once impossibly cheesy and obvious – a desperate shame when you consider the writing talent involved. In fact, Joel Edgerton and his brother Nash (who was also involved with acting and stunt work credits) started their careers in the short film industry and despite it’s quality leading performances, one believes a 7 minute running time would suit this depressed tale perfectly.

The cinematography by Natasha Braier is crisp and professional but her skill is limited by the monotony of the environments, the music composed by Antony Partosobnoxious and intrusive but the make-up and special effects are both quietly tremendous (if gore or realistic violence are important to you, you’ll find them here), proving how much of a mixed-bag The Rover is in terms of quality. If only Australian writers would learn that dialogue suited to novels stuffed with rhetorical questions and layered pondering isn’t also suited to a visual narrative, and that creating icons isn’t as simple as giving them a label and a loaded gun, our industry may finally start progressing in a meaningful manner and become deserving of acclaim from afar.

The tale of a broken man who wishes to be dead but is instead doomed to live while seeing death all around him (and that’s about it…), David Michôd’s second feature earns kudos for being daring, but loses credibility through execution and painting obvious messages on the walls. Still, with enough oozing bullet holes and torrid squalor to make other recent post-apocalyptic thrillers blush, I look forward to the reactions of all Pattinson devotees that track it down.

3 pushy shopkeepers out of 5

11 responses to “Film Review – The Rover (2014)

  1. Hm, that’s a shame, I was heavily considering driving a couple hours to see it in a major city, but now perhaps not so much. The consensus on Rottentomatoes says pretty much the same thing, and it’s at 65% positive.

    Anywho, I got ‘Animal Kingdom’ from Netflix yesterday, so maybe I’ll get my David Michod fix with that 😀

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  3. Finally got around to seeing this after watching the way better ‘Animal Kingdom’ months ago.

    “If only Australian writers would learn that dialogue suited to novels stuffed with rhetorical questions and layered pondering isn’t also suited to a visual narrative…” This is great analysis, though I’d extend this criticism to some of Chris Nolan’s later films as well. I sometimes wonder if screenwriters ever read their dialogue out loud and ask themselves the amusing but oh so crucial question, ‘Would a real person ever actually say this? 😛

    Anywho, I really think this would have been better off as a short film. There’s a lot of great imagery and ideas sifting through this narrative, but as The Rover stands now it’s a whole lotta fluff and filler for too little emotional impact and character resonance.

    • Hey mate, glad you finally caught it. That’s very true about Nolan: it creates a distance when the dialogue is so unbelievable, although in his case the core ideas and ambition are what bring the audience back.
      With the needless twist the ending of The Rover had a short film feel about it. I agree that stretching a feature length out of the concept led to some unexpected boredom.
      Ps gee Animal Kindom is a powerful film.

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