10 years after a global economic collapse, a hardened, ruthless ex-soldier tracks down the men who stole his only possession. As he travels through the lawless Australian outback, he takes a damaged young man as his unwitting accomplice.
Summer at the movies is usually a collection of ‘park your brain at the door’ entries that allow you to escape the world while not being forced to think too much. A combination of pretty people and things that ‘blow up real good’ are pure escapism at its finest.
The Rover is not this kind of movie. In fact, it might be one of the most chilling and grim movies from start to finish I have ever seen.
Set ten years after the world economy collapses, Australia becomes a home for many races of people just struggling to survive. It is here we meet Eric (Guy Pierce), a man with a long stare who seems to be devoid of any real purpose. That all changes in an instant, when three men crash their car and decide to take his.
The men, Archie (David Field), Caleb (Tawanda Manyimo) and Henry (Scoot McNairy) are fleeing a botched robbery and upend the car while arguing about who is at fault and the fate of Henry’s brother Rey (Robert Pattinson). Finding a replacement car so easily seems like a stroke of luck on this bad day, but it actually the worst thing they could have done.
Eric, it seems, really likes his car.
He manages to get the would be thieves abandoned car going and begins his seemingly single minded pursuit of his own vehicle. Quickly catching up to them, both cars stop and a face to face confrontation ensues, leaving Eric unconscious on the ground and the three men once again on the road with his car.
Once awake, and for some reason left alive, Eric begins his pursuit again. He comes across a town and begins going from building to building in search of information about his missing car. He finds a charming opium den run by a woman simply known as Grandma and occupied by a mixed bag of people including members of what was once a travelling circus.
After making a violent gun transaction with one of the ex-circus members, Eric returns to his vehicle to find Rey, who while nursing a bad wound, had managed to track his brother Henry’s car to this point. However, before Eric can beat anything useful out of him, he faints, leaving Eric no choice but to search out a doctor for him so he can get information about his car.
It was at this point that I began to wonder if this movie was going to any characters with at least some redeeming qualities. It can become hard to like a movie when you cannot distinguish the good guys from the bad, no matter how good the story and acting are.
Thankfully, that was about to change.
They find the doctor (Susan Prior) who patches up Rey with no strings attached. It is a great moment in the film, watching Eric’s face as his poor brain tries to register the fact that someone just did a selfless act and wants nothing in return.
Of course, the peace is short lived as a couple of people from the now defunct traveling circus come looking for answers to Eric’s violent response to his earlier gun transaction. The doctor is shocked to watch Eric shoot them both dead, but not before a friend of the doctor’s dies at their hands. Needless to say, it was time for Eric and Rey to move on.
This is where the movie has some of its finest moments. The interaction between Eric and Rey begins to change from captor and hostage to grudging realization that they both need each other. Eric’s first impression of Rey being nothing more than a simpleton remains, but is now mixed with that him being just a naïve and far too trusting individual. They take turns bailing each other out of trouble with more shootings and deaths, making this movie begin to resemble a western with each passing minute.
“Fear the man with nothing left to lose.”
Now unofficially a ‘team’, they finally arrive at Rey’s brother’s hideaway and find Eric’s car. Eric is ready to ride off but knowing Rey wants revenge and needs his help, puts together a quick plan and they enter the thieves’ house.
The violence that erupts in the house is somehow only a fitting end to a journey that was defined by gunshots and bloodshed. To no one’s surprise, not everyone makes it out of the house alive but the final act of the film does show some heart and humanity while explaining the mystery behind the importance of Eric’s car.
This was a challenging movie to watch, with so many people in horrible circumstances testing the limits of how bad we as human beings can sink. Director David Michod sets a great mood and tempo for this film, albeit surrounded be a lot of darkness and despair.
Guy Pierce and Robert Pattinson are great on their own but are even better when they are spending screen time together. Pattinson especially impresses here, giving a great performance that is very far removed from his Twilight days. The slow minded, brown toothed Rey will not have a legion of girls as fans but will win Pattinson some much deserved praise.
You might feel the need to shower and go hug a loved one after this movie, but there is no doubt you will remember it long after you have left the theatre. I guess in the end that is something a filmmaker can only hope for.
+ Wonderful performances by Guy Pierce and Robert Pattinson
+ A great look at the dark side of human beings
+ Consistently dire and chilling from start to end
-A few plot holes that could have been explained better
-Would have loved to see a few supporting characters with more screen time
-The sound/score was seemed lacking at times.