Rover–Ultra-Violent Midnight Movie Starring 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.

the_rover_4_pearceGuy Pearce, in a dishevelled, unkepmt mode, plays the vague protagonost, Eric, sort of an updated version of Mel Gibson in the Mad Max movies.  When first seen, Eric is 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 Henry (Scott McNairy), who’s an American.

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.

the_rover_5_pattinson_pearceThough he has lost any semblance of humanity and civilized behavior, Eric takes Rey to a female doctor (Susan Piror), and she tends to the latter’s wounds.

Quite predictably, the shaggy dog story builds up toward a face-to-face confrontation between the two siblings, with mutual accusations of betrayal and misconduct and tragic results.

“The Rover” ends up on such a weak and vain note that it makes the preposterous dialogue throughout the plot 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 anyone 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 mise-en-scene, especially in the exterior sequences.

Obviously, the audience for such an ultra-violent movie is small.  Thus, Michod’s next feature will be crucial for establishing his international reputation.