Take an immensely talented director, a first-class cinematographer, a collection of decidedly gifted actors and film them. Tack on a musical soundtrack that bristles with originality and what do you have? In the case of The Rover, not much.
Imagine an episode of Breaking Bad written by a sheltered twelve-year-old, whose only toys were a Matchbox car and a GI Joe, and you’re half way there.
The plot of The Rover -- and we use that term with trepidation here -- is about Eric (Guy Pearce), a tightlipped, begrizzled gent existing on the plains of Australia ten years after some sort of social disaster has occurred. Everyone is now on his own.
Well, one afternoon three gangster types abscond with Eric's automobile, which gets him peeved, and for the rest of this "epic" he compulsively searches for the culprits and for his heap. Along the way, he's lucky to run across Rey (Robert Pattinson), a wounded brother of one of the gangsters, and a bromance of sort occurs, but little else.
Now please note that you’re in the hands of the inordinately skilled helmer of the ultra-violent Animal Kingdom and the acclaimed Argentinian cinematographer Natasha Brier, so visually you are thrust into a well-paced action offering. But at about 40 minutes or so into The Rover, you realize not much is going to transpire other than a car ride which stops now and then so a few folks can get shot. Along the way you do pick up that Eric is an asshole suffering from extreme egocentrism with one redeeming trait that is bound to something in the pilfered jalopy. (You'll discover what just as the credits are about to roll .)
So what are we to make of this lengthy, dusty drive? Are we to surmise there’s some existentialist underpinnings to this journey? Or is this a paean to Clint Eastwood’s laconic 1960s' westerns? Or is writer/director/producer David Michod just another one of those film school trainees who lives to be a part of the world of cinema but has nothing much to say after he said it all in his freshman effort? I choose door three.
Admittedly, though, on the plus side, and there is one, Mr. Pattinson steals the picture, finally showing he can portray more than a pallid vampire suffering from disabled charisma. His embodiment here of a dimwitted, loving member of a third-rate gang of outlaws will no doubt garner him a few award considerations if not major roles with some top-notch directors in the coming seasons. - Brandon Judell
IN RELATED NEWS: A new featurette with Robert Pattinson, Guy Pearce, and director David Michod has been released for A24's The Rover, opening nationwide on Friday, June 20.
Additionally, a new site called "The Meaning Generator" has just launched.
Inspired by the themes and emotions explored in David Michôd's upcoming film The Rover, The Meaning Generator allows you to create your own individualized meanings out of the global and personal forces that shape our world. With every click, meaning shifts, creating a million possible truths, warnings, predictions, falsehoods and aspirations that reflect our time and offer glimpses into potential futures we may create or succumb to. Every meaning you make can be captured and shared as your own generated meaning poster and personalized URL.
Mr. Judell is currently teaching "Theatre into Film" and "The Arts in New York City" at The City College of New York and is Coordinator of The Simon H. Rifkind Center. He has written on film for The Village Voice, indieWire.com, the New York Daily News, Soho Style, and The Advocate, and is anthologized in Cynthia Fuchs's Spike Lee Interviews (University Press of Mississippi) and John Preston's A Member of the Family (Dutton). He is also a member of the performance/writinggroup FlashPoint.