Review by Stuart O'Connor
Stars Guy Pearce, Robert Pattinson, Scoot McNairy, Tawanda Manyimo, David Field, Scott Perry, Richard Green, Ben Armer, Ethan Hanslow, Gillian Jones, Jamie Fallon
Written by Joel Edgerton & David Michôd
Certification UK 15 | US R
Runtime 103 minutes
Directed by David Michôd
Do not go in to this film expecting to see Mad Max. Yes, it takes place in a "post-apocalyptic" future. Yes, there are car chases in the Australian outback. Yes, the lead character is a man of few words. But The Rover is not just anotehr version of Mad Max; it's very much it's own dark beast.
Set in the desolate South Australian outback 0 years after a global social and economic meltdown, The Rover sees Pearce's bitter loner (unnamed in the film, but called Eric in the final credits) force to go in chase of a gang that has stolen his only possession, his car. Left behind was injured (and mentally impaired) fourth gang member Rey (Pattinson), so Eric takes him along as a bargaining chip.
It's a minimal plot, and there is minimal backstory. It's a slow-moving dystopian drama set in a barren wasteland, populated by people who resemble zombies, barely managing to scrape out an existence. Eric is one of the few Australians we encounter – most of the characters are Asians, who travelled to Australia to work in the mines, and the American dollar is the most common currency in use. There is no government that we can see – some military types encountered by Eric and Rey seem to be a law unto themselves.
It's bleak and harsh and unpleasant, but what drives The Rover is a magnificent central performance from Pearce. He's a single-minded man on a mission, dark and brooding and quiet, but violent when he needs to be and able to kill a man when he has no otehr choice. "You should never stop thinking about a life you've taken. That's the price you pay for taking it," he says at one point. Pattinson too is fine, ably moving away from his Twilight years with a twitchy, complex performance, but it's Pearce's film all the way.
The Rover is far from perfect - a little too much is left up in the air for the audeicne to work out for themselves - but it's nonetheless a tense, compelling and impressive piece of filmmaking. It's a futuristic western that is not really "about" anything, but if you look deep into the dust of the harsh Aussie outback, you'll find an awful lot to think about.