Sunday, September 21, 2014

Video review: "The Rover"

Australian writer/director David Michôd’s first feature film, “Animal Kingdom,” garnered a lot of attention four years ago, not to mention an Oscar nomination for Jacki Weaver. His follow-up, “The Rover,” is a bold and innovative sophomore effort, though only intermittently engaging.

It’s set 10 years after a global economic collapse. Different nationalities have moved to Australia for undisclosed reasons. The outback has never looked so dry and spare, seemingly just a collection of roads interrupted by strips of shantytowns. There’s some electricity, and a little commerce, but mostly it’s just a bunch of tired people playing out the string.

Enter our (never-named) antihero, played by Guy Pearce. His sullen stare and studied silence lend a clue that he’s not to be messed with. When a band of criminals crash their truck during a getaway, they steal his car. He manages to get the truck going again, and takes off after them. In fact, he seems quite willing to die to get his car back. Why? The vehicles seem like a fair trade.

Along the way he encounters Rey (Robert Pattinson), the dimwitted kid brother of one of the robbers, who was left behind, shot up and dying. Our man takes him to a doctor to get stitched up, then holds him hostage to help find the brother, and his car.

Over time, the two men develop an unlikely bond. Pattinson is a marvel, displaying an innate sweetness and more than passable Southern accent. They each have something to teach the other: Rey needs to toughen up, and his crusty friend needs to be reminded where the last nugget of his humanity resides.

 "You should never stop thinking about a life you've taken,” he says. “It's the price you pay for taking it."

“The Rover” is essentially a mystery, in which we try to puzzle out who this strange man is, what is the source of his anger and pain, and whether he’s really as bad as he seems to be. The plotting is a bit tedious at times, and even at 102 minutes the film could probably have used an editing trim. It’s a worthy effort, if not an entirely successful one.

Video extras, which are the same for DVD and Blu-ray versions, are limited to a single featurette, “Something Elemental: Making The Rover.”



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