The Rover - DVD Review

'Constantly sharing the screen with the far more skilled Pearce only highlights the difference in quality between Pattinson's performance and that of his co-star'.

Proving that contemporary dystopian cinema is not yet solely the remit of young adult novel adaptations, writer and director David Michôd's The Rover presents a grim future in stark and stylish fashion. Michôd doesn't trouble us with complex explanations of how the world arrived at this sorry state of affairs, informing us through an opening caption that the film's events happen ten years after "the collapse" and leaving it at that. It's a bold decision that could have gone either way (look no further than The Purge franchise for evidence this type of narrative choice backfiring), but Michôd's vivid and authentic realisation of his bleak vision makes it work convincingly well.

Key to the success of The Rover's premise is Guy Pearce as the story's mysterious central figure. Through Eric, Pearce adds yet another superb indie performance to his CV, something of a breath of fresh air from the actor after much more stylised, less memorable turns recently in the likes of Iron Man 3 and Prometheus. Like an unhinged, post-apocalyptic version of The Big Lebowski's Dude, all Eric wants throughout the film is his car back after having it stolen during the opening scenes, willing to go to extraordinary lengths - and through anyone who gets in his way - to retrieve it. With Michôd only dropping a few small and subtle hints here and there as to why the car is so important, Eric's enigmatic purpose and background for much of the film makes the character a consistently captivating presence.

Opposite Pearce for much of the running time is Robert Pattinson as Rey, the abandoned younger brother of Henry (Scoot McNairy) who just happens to be a member of the gang that stole Eric's car. The dynamic between the world-weary, nihilistic Eric and the simple-minded, naïve Rey is pleasing, even at times reminiscent of George and Lennie from Steinbeck's Of Mice And Men. The problem comes from the juxtaposition of acting talent. Whilst Pattinson's performance here is never terrible, it is largely ordinary and at least once or twice, to quote Tropic Thunder's Kirk Lazarus, "goes full retard". Constantly sharing the screen with the far more skilled Pearce only highlights the difference in quality between Pattinson's performance and that of his co-star, a seriously unfortunate truth for the young actor yet to shake off the criticism levelled at his turns in the Twilight franchise.

Despite Pattinson's somewhat iffy performance, The Rover is for its first hour a captivating and uncompromising blend of contemporary Western and dystopian road movie set to a suitably minimalist, cacophonous soundtrack. The main issue is that Michôd's film runs out of steam during the final forty minutes. The pace slows considerably, the focus becomes fuzzy, and even Eric loses some of his intrigue after revelations about his former life. After spending around ninety minutes getting there, Michôd also feels disappointingly unsure of what to do once his film arrives at its climax. It's not enough to ruin the considerable good work to be found throughout much of The Rover, but it does leave the film feeling somewhat less satisfying than its first half perhaps promised. Had the whole film maintained the strength of the opening sixty minutes, there would be one more star at the end of this review.

By Ben Broadribb. Ben is a regular contributor to Film Intel, having previously written at Some Like It Hot Fuzz. He is normally seen in the wild wearing t-shirts containing obscure film references. He is a geek, often unashamedly so. He's also on and Twitter.

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