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Friday, June 13, 2014


Courtesy of A24 Films
2014, 102 minutes
Rated R for language and some bloody violence 

Review by Joshua Handler

David Michôd hasn't made a movie since his feature debut Animal Kingdom, which was a superb piece of crime drama that garnered Jackie Weaver her first Oscar nomination.  After four years, Michôd is back with the post-apocalyptic thriller, The Rover.  The film is set in the Australian Outback ten years after "The Collapse" and tells the story of Eric (Guy Pearce), a man who's lost everything, who, with a wounded man, Rey (Robert Pattinson), goes to find the men who stole his car.

Michôd moves The Rover along at a very measured pace.  Occasionally, the pace slows too much for its own good, but for the most part, the slow pace increases the tension and makes the scenes of bloody violence that much more shocking (they made more than one person gasp or jump at my screening).  Michôd builds his simple story quietly until it concludes in a rather unexpected, yet very poignant manner.  I was moved by the final scene.  It is profound, unexpected, and melancholic and is tonally and thematically the perfect ending for a film like this.

Guy Pearce and Robert Pattinson give two of the most impressive performances of their careers. Pearce has always been a favorite of mine who rarely is given any recognition from major awards groups. Awards groups usually award the performers with the showiest performances, which is likely why Pearce doesn't get their recognition. His performances are frequently unnervingly subtle and intense and his performance in The Rover is no exception. Eric has lost everything and because he has nothing to lose, he is unhinged, unpredictable, and volatile. Pearce portrays Eric's volatility and determination through his face, not dialogue. While he utters few words over the course of the film, it is always clear what is happening inside him.

Robert Pattinson is a revelation and gives a stunningly detailed performance.  Rey may be mentally challenged and Pattinson gives himself over to the role completely.  He captures the weakness, the fragility, and the instability of Rey perfectly and creates a sympathetic character that perfectly matches Pearce's intensity.  Pattinson is doing an excellent job at moving away from Twilight by proving himself to be a very adept actor.  

Overall, The Rover is uncompromising vision that won't be for all, but for those who like their films dark, bloody, and grimy, this will be perfect for you.  Michôd has proven himself a very smart and economical director and has shown that he's not a one-hit wonder.  The Rover is the real deal.  Had the pace not lagged in a few isolated points, this would easily end up on my "best of 2014 (mid-way report)" list.  As a side note, Antony Partos' unnerving score is one of the year's most original.


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