The Rover: An existential jawbreaker



The Rover takes place in Australia in the middle of nowhere. Australia has a lot of that. The latest from writer-director David Michod (Animal Kingdom) is set "10 years after the collapse." It doesn't provide details about the collapse — we're not even sure whether the unspecified disaster hit the whole world or just Australia. Commerce still exists. We see a passing train, and gas and groceries are still sold by well-armed merchants in weathered shacks here and there. American money is preferred over Australian, for what that's worth. One thing is clear. In the middle of the southern outback, there is no law. Each person makes his or her own rules or follows the rules of others.

If reading about a lawless Australia after a collapse makes you think of the Mad Max movies, stop right there. There are no colorful punk road warriors in The Rover, no way-cool Thunderdomes, no knockout epic action scenes. In this terribly hot, sticky future, people fight exhaustion and nihilism. They search for somewhere relatively comfortable to sit and stare.

Ready to head for the theater yet?

There are bandits, naturally. While Eric (Guy Pearce) sits in a makeshift bar, we see the vehicle of three fleeing criminals – an Australian (David Field), a New Zealander (Tawanda Manyimo) and an American (Scoot McNairy) crashing outside. The frantic men steal Eric's sedan and race away.

Eric takes their vehicle (it wasn't nearly as messed up as they thought) and the most-definitely-not-Road-Warrior-style chase is on. At one of many stops, where a cordial lady (Gillian Jones) watches over a farmhouse and its inhabitants, Eric encounters Rey, played by Robert Pattinson in a drastic change from his look (check out those teeth!) and style in the Twilight movies. Rey appears stunned or stunted, but eager to socialize. Turns out he was a member of the aforementioned group of robbers, injured and left for dead. After he gets patched up by a doctor (Susan Prior), Rey takes off with Eric, so convinced that his brother (the American bandit) abandoned him that he is willing to lead Eric to the gang.

The Rover is well-acted and interesting. The score effectively creates suspense while amplifying the unrelenting bleakness of the story. The best part of the film is the give and take between Eric and Rey. Guy Pearce is effective, as always, but it's Robert Pattinson that makes their scenes rich. Eric is a grim survivor who says little and reveals next to nothing about himself. He is on a mission and will do whatever it takes to accomplish his goal, period. But there's more going on with Rey. He tries to be taciturn, but his need to interact is too strong. Eric and Rey don't become friends, but they build a certain sense of trust, and enough of a relationship to keep the movie rolling.

I won't reveal where the story goes or how it concludes, of course. Suffice to say the bleak atmosphere does not go away. I'm glad I saw The Rover, but I wonder how many others will opt to spend money on a hot summer day to suck on this brutal existential jawbreaker.


22 Jump Street ★★★1/2 (out of 5) Jonah Hill and Channing Tatum return in a mostly rollicking followup to the surprise hit action-comedy 21 Jump Street. This time the best buddies are assigned to work undercover at a college, pretending to be students as they sure for the source of a dangerous new drug. The comedy is meta as hell, mining laughs out of its awareness of being a by-the-books sequel to an unexpected smash. Ice Cube returns in fine form as their exasperated boss and Wyatt Russell (Kurt's son) plays a new pal of Tatum's character. Hill is aces, but Tatum steals scenes left and right. Even when the jokes miss, it's a pleasure just watching the extremely likable lead duo.

The Grand Seduction ★★1/2 My all-time favorite movie is the charming, quirky, low-key 1982 feature Local Hero. The Grand Seduction has a similar set-up to Local Hero, with bits of Waking Ned Devine and Northern Exposure as well. To try to seal a huge deal, the citizens of a small Newfoundland harbor town lure a doctor (Taylor Kitsch) to join their community and try to charm him into staying. They even pretend to embrace his favorite sport, cricket. The Grand Seduction tries too hard. Watch Local Hero instead. Brendan Gleeson costars.

Related Film

The Rover

Official Site:

Director: David Michôd

Writer: Joel Edgerton and David Michôd

Producer: Liz Watts, David Linde and David Michôd

Cast: Guy Pearce, Robert Pattinson, Scoot McNairy, Nash Edgerton, David Field, Anthony Hayes, Susan Prior and Gillian Jones


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