Film Reviews

THE ROVER

By • Jun 15th, 2014 •

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Pattinson transcends his career-strangling straightjacket with a dynamic performance – don’t go back now! Does Guy Pearce ever make a wrong step in picking films?

We know what happens when a few New Yorkers in movies like I AM LEGEND survive the apocalypse – they raid the Metropolitan Museum. Then there are the post-apocalypse scenarios where some Gary Oldman bloodlust gangster runs a little fiefdom (THE BOOK OF ELI). But how would petty criminals in a post-apocalypse Australia fair before Toecutter (MAD MAX) gets his gang together?

THE ROVER is director David Michôd’s follow-up to his terrific 2010 ANIMAL KINGDOM which had the great line delivered by Jacki Weaver: “You’ve done some bad things, sweetie.”

Did that ever make it on a promotional t-shirt?

As in ANIMAL KINGDOM, Michod loves the complexity of petty, mean criminals and traitorous family members.

The actor’s handbook has a technique called “mumblecore”, I rank Benicio Del Toro in THE USUAL SUSPECTS as Number 1, Brad Pitt in SNATCH (90 percent of his dialogue is unintelligible) as Number 2, followed by Heath Ledger in BROKEBACK MOUNTAIN and Jeff Bridges in TRUE GRIT. I’m now conflicted. Should Robert Pattinson have the Number 1 spot?

And one major copout: Robert De Niro’s convict accent in CAPE FEAR. After reportedly spending two-to-three-hour sessions four or five days a week during the two months prior to filming to perfect a convict’s speech patterns, we only got a moment of his incomprehensible Southern accent. De Niro should have kept it for the entire movie! Could you imagine Max Cady’s seduction scene with Sam Bowden’s daughter if he kept the Appalachian speech patterns?

To the people living “off the grid” in Australia, what happened – the collapse – is not something they care about. “The Collapse” didn’t affect their IRAs or pensions. It hasn’t changed their life at all. Except, there are fewer police to worry about if you kill someone for stealing your car and leaving you with a better vehicle.

This is what happens to Eric (Guy Pearce). Eric’s car is stolen by three men, Henry (Scoot McNairy), Archie (David Field), and Caleb (Tawanda Manyimo), who are running from a shoot-out. Eric jumps into their truck after them. Eric’s car is a symbol since the truck is better than his car. But he wants his car back, damn it! It’s the principle of the thing.

Eric does stop them but they knock him out. Eric continues in pursuit when he wakes up, stopping along the way to ask folks if they have seen a car with three men in it. He has a smoldering encounter with an old grandma (Gillian Jones) that informs us that society has really “gone to hell in a hand basket”. Eric finds Rey (Pattinson), the fourth member of the gang and younger brother of Henry. He’s been badly wounded but knows where his brother is headed. Eric forces Rey to go with him to find the gang. He keeps telling Rey his brother left him to die. Patched up by a lady doctor Eric knows, Rey agrees to take him to the gang’s hideout.

Pattinson doesn’t bother with words to express himself. His character’s emotions just bleed through his body without the need for words. Just the way early man must have begun before he found the use of language for deception.

THE ROVER screenplay is by Michôd from a story by Joel Edgerton (who starred in ANIMAL KINGDOM along with Pearce). While the mood and its laissez-faire nihilistic attitude toward life is so compelling – and the director’s métier – it is the acting of Pearce and Pattinson that gives THE ROVER its weight. Both Pearce and Pattinson leave movie stardom to appear as men dead inside. Even when given the opportunity to clean up, their characters don’t bother.

At least Pattinson’s character was after something in the robbery; Pearce’s presentation of Eric clearly shows a man freed from the morals of still harboring a soul. Michôd wrote the character of Eric for Pearce and Pattinson won the role of Reynolds after auditioning! It is a perfect role for Pearce and a brave one for Pattinson – he’s in a different league now. Though Pattinson already paid his dues with his Reese Witherspoon movie, WATER FOR ELEPHANTS, there is still that Rom-Com Demon hanging out in agent’s waiting rooms. Remember THIS MEANS WAR was after INCEPTION for Tom Hardy. (It took LOCKE for Hardy to wash away the blood stain of THIS MEANS WAR.) Does this mean there is a seductive trap – the “Reese Witherspoon Curse” – for young, hot actors?

Member of Boadcast Film Critics Association: www.bfca.org

Member of Las Vegas Film Critics Society:www.lvfcs.org

Victoria Alexander lives in Las Vegas, Nevada and answers every email at masauu@aol.com.

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