Rover, The (2014): David Michod’s Nasty, Violent Midnight Flick, Starring Robert Pattinson and Guy Pearce

the_rover_2_pearceAfter making a splashy debut with his family crime drama, “Animal Kingdom,” in 2010, “The Rover,” the follow-up of Aussie director David Michod, is thematically disappointing, a pale imitation of the far superior Mad Max-Road Warrior pictures that three decades ago had put Mel Gibson on the movie map.

“The Rover” received its world premiere at the 2014 Cannes Film Fest, as an out-of-competition selection.  Though struggling to maintain its cool, this midnight movie will be released in June by the new U.S. distributor A24, which may strike a chord with very young males and college students.

the_rover_6_pattinsonOverextending its welcome by at least 20 minutes, the scenario–yet another version of the subgenre of postapocalyptic sagas–is credited to Michod and actor Joel Edgerton.

Defined by extremely sparse, minimal, and trivial dialogue, for a while, “The Rover” captivates our attention by its desolate beauty, courtsey of the talented cinematgohrapher Natasha Braier, who shot in Southern Australia (though even the visuals are paying tribute to Sergio Leone’s Spaghetti Westerns).

Set “10 years after the collapse,” whatever that means, this grim, ultra-violent tale begins well by establishing right away that cars are very much scarce and very much needed, and individuals in this lawless land would do anything to get mode of transport–even if they have to kill their own brothers.

Guy Pearce, in a dishevelled, unkepmt mode, plays Eric, who’s first seen sitting at a shabby roadside bar in the middle of nowhere, while his car is stolen by a gang of hoodlums, a bunch of desperados headed by the American Henry (Scott McNairy).

For the first reel or so, Eric chases the thieves, uttering only one sentence, “I want my car back,” which is repeated over and over again.  But why does he want his car so badly???

The feature picks up some drmatic momentum, when Pearce encounters and saves the life of the badly wounded Rey (Robert Pattinson, cast againt type as a stuttering dumb fellow), who seems to have been deserted by his brother Henry.

Though he has lost any semblance of humanity and civilized behavior, Eric takes Rey to a feamle doctor (Susan Piror), and she tends to the latter’s wounds.

Quite predictably, the shaggy dog story builds up toward a fatal confrontation between the siblings, and the movie ends up on such a weak note that it makes the preposterous dialogue all the nore noticeable.

Michod and his writer describe a future in which life is cheap and worthless, and the only rule of survival is shooting in cold blood anything and anytone that seems suspicious.

The verdict is out there for Michod, who here goes for all-out striking imagery, proving that he is much more skillful as a director than as a writer.  The narrative (such as it is) consists of a series of action set-ups that demonstrate Michod’s penchant for outdoors mise-en-scene.

Michod’s next feature will be crucial for establishing his international reputation as a major director.