Director: David Michôd (Animal Kingdom)
Writers: David Michôd, Joel Edgerton
Producers: David Linde, David Michôd, Liz Watts
Starring: Guy Pearce, Chan Kien, Robert Pattinson, Tek Kong Lim, Scoot McNairy
MPAA Rating: R
Running time: 103 min.
Like a short story Cormac McCarthy threw in the shredder because it had too much of a happy ending.
Really bizarre, but in a fascinating way. Have stewed over it for a little more than 24 hours, and I’m still not entirely sure where I land. Like Animal Kingdom, it has a myriad of stylistic reference points: McCarthy to Steinbeck, John Hillcoat to Paul Thomas Anderson. The Rover truly does feel like a novella as opposed to its Moby Dick-size comparison, There Will Be Blood. Writer-director David Michôd’s sophomore outing has all the trappings of a masterpiece, even if it isn’t one: painfully long static and tracking shots, a drier-than-bone Australian outback that looks like the face of death if it were out in the sun for a hundred years (as the title card tells us, The Rover takes place a decade after an undisclosed economic collapse), and a Jonny Greenwood-esque score which sounds as much like a cleverly controlled orchestration as it does said apparatus being fucked-with and constantly torn apart.
Not to sound like THAT asshole…but The Rover won’t be for everybody. It’s a deeply discomfiting work, violent yet strange in its usage and often lack of justification. The event which thrusts the narrative into action one would think is relatively minor: our grizzly man with no name (played with fiery gusto by Guy Pearce, the inner turmoil in his puppy-dog eyes an emotional composition in and of itself) gets his car stolen by three hoodlums (led by the underrated Scoot McNairy) who just recently left their “halfwit” fourth member (Robert Pattinson) to die after an ambiguously botched brawl.
But it’s The Rover’s ultimate leaning toward sentiment which gives its earlier proceedings shape and poetic meaning. Which, again, some will shrug off. (That the ambient likes of William Basinski and Tortoise populate the otherwise sparse soundtrack should give you a whiff of the movie’s considerably enigmatic aural Arcadia.) This is also, I think, as good as he is in David Cronenberg’s tricky Cosmopolis, the movie where Pattinson does something more physical than (albeit well-framed) pout- and posing. He’s consciously impressive, though, like the rest of the film, utterly believable as a misguided, more than slightly autistic urban idler.
There’s a stark difference between monotonous and tonally decrepit. That The Rover itself looks and acts ramshackle and rundown should be accredited to its full plausibility as a landscape in its final evolutionary state of disrepair. Though the epilogue reminds us not of hope, it does of peace in a state of plateau — destruction as post-apocalyptical comeuppance.