“The Rover” is director David Michod’s follow-up to 2010’s “Animal Kingdom”, for which Jacki Weaver (“Silver Linings Playbook”) received an Oscar nomination. This grizzly crime drama debuted last month at the Cannes Film Festival, with praise galore for actors Guy Pearce and “Twilight”‘s Robert Pattinson. Their performances are the best thing about “The Rover”, which has plenty of style but not much substance.
And it’s too bad because the set-up for “The Rover” is pretty intriguing. Set in Australia 10 years after a complete economic collapse, everyone is left to fend for themselves for money, food and supplies, and a gun is now the most important thing someone can have. Pearce plays Eric, a seemingly regular guy who is drawn into a situation with a group of criminals and he spends the entire movie pursuing them in order to retrieve the one thing in his life that means the most to him. Pattison’s Rey joins him in this quest, and they develop a relationship, which Michod tries unsuccessfully, to make more meaningful than it plays out on screen.
“The Rover” begins strong with a tense, “living on the edge” feel (Michod wrote the script and developed the story with actor Joel Edgerton). But once it’s determined (in a startling scene) that Eric isn’t who we think he is, the interest level drops significantly. The film simply becomes a case of desperate, violent people chasing each other through the vast, Australian Outback, while killing as many others as possible along the way. It’s difficult to become emotionally attached to a story when every character is a villain.
Neither Pearce nor Pattinson have much to say, so the strength of their performances come from their facial expressions, reactions and physical quirks. Pearce is solid and does his best to add tension to many of the dull moments between shootouts. This is certainly a step inthe right direction (and away from Edward Cullen) for an almost unrecognizable Pattinson.
“The Rover” has an authentic look, but other than in a few violently shocking and disturbing scenes, it can’t maintain a level of suspense in the final two acts. And the ultimate payoff at the end of this life-and-death pursuit is fairly underwhelming.
The tagline for “The Rover” is: “Fear the Man with Nothing Left to Lose.” My advice: “Avoid the Film with Nothing Much to Offer.”
On The Official LCJ Report Card, “The Rover” gets a C-.