Starring Guy Pearce and Robert Pattinson. Rating unavailable.
Set in Australia 10 years after the collapse of the world economy, The Rover is a bleak and ultimately pointless exercise in both savagery and survival. Mainstream films with intellectual pretensions don’t come much grimmer—or more emotionally deadening—than this. There’s virtually nobody to root for here. And that’s just the way director David Michôd seems to want it.
That’s not to say The Rover doesn’t stir up some initial interest. Life in the postapocalypse has become a bit like the Old West. The arid, dust-blown backdrop is packed with unsavoury characters who live by the rule of the shotgun. Although there’s a military presence, it’s stretched woefully thin.
That’s good news for Eric (a tightly wound Guy Pearce), a drifter with a dark secret. Eric’s one concession to normalcy? A mundane-looking sedan that seems oddly out of place in the desert.
Eric’s car is stolen by a gang of bandits after their own vehicle gets stuck in a ditch. He liberates the gang’s car—ironically, much better suited to the terrain than his own—and takes after them in a kind of low-grade fury. At this point, tension is about as high as it’s going to get. We’re wondering what’s in the trunk of Eric’s car that makes getting it back so crucial.
Eric loses track of the thieves. But his luck improves when he hooks up with a wounded member of the gang who’s been left for dead. Rey (Robert Pattinson) is the younger brother of one of the gang members. Initially, he’s not keen on helping Eric out. But during the course of their road trip, things begin to change.
If there’s anything even mildly redeeming about The Rover, it’s watching Pattinson try to shed his teen-heartthrob image by portraying a childlike country boy whose mind works like a flickering light bulb. As it turns out, nothing can make up for this soulless endeavour—including learning what’s inside the trunk of Eric’s car. The ending is intended to be both shocking and poignant, but it left me feeling like I’d been taken for a ride.