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Pearce and Pattinson steer 'The Rover' into dark territory

"The Rover" (2014) 3.5 / 4 stars - by Jeff Mitchell - In 2010, writer/director David Michod exploded on the scene with his highly visceral Australian drama, “Animal Kingdom”.

This raw recreation of the real-life lawbreaking Cody family - along with mesmerizing performances by Ben Mendelsohn and Jacki Weaver - sent chills down my spine, and in this critics eyes, Michod delivered the best crime film within the last 10 years.

Now, in 2014, Michod is back with another engagement in brutality, but he presents a story of a very different kind in “The Rover”.

Set in Australia and 10 years after “The Collapse”, life in this barren desert is the farthest place from creature comforts this side of 1986 Chernobyl.

Although the skies are constantly blue, the sun beats down and on the distant mountains and bakes the dry desert floor.

With no hint of rainwater or - more important - a functioning economy any where in sight, life after “The Collapse” certainly is a miserable existence.

For our “hero”, Eric (Guy Pearce), he seems equally miserable.

Pulling up to a ransacked shanty of a building in his dusty and dirty 4-door sedan, he walks inside and orders a stiff drink.

Suddenly, three men - from out of nowhere - steal something from Eric, and now, he steadfastly pursues them to reclaim his possession.

Although set sometime in the near future, Michod’s movie really is an old-fashioned Spaghetti Western, and Eric tries to right a wrong, by committing - of course - lots of wrongs himself!

Not only depressed and desperate, Eric is now angry and vengeful.

I am not exactly sure what one would call this toxic concoction of a personality test, but trust me, you don’t want to mess with a D.D.A.V.

Pearce is excellent.

He’s brooding and dangerous, and Pearce shows how menacing he can be in the most unpredictable and shocking ways.

Eric must have a reason for his over-the-top relentless pursuit of what is rightfully his, but perhaps there is no explanation.

He lived in a life misery for so long, maybe this is his breaking point.

Helping him on his quest is a 20-something slow adult named Rey, nicely played by Robert Pattinson of “Twilight” fame.

Rey claims he knows where the three perpetrators are located, so Eric takes him along for the ride as a guide through an ugly wasteland and dotted with a scant hint of humanity.

We discover the general populous is in most need of food and petrol, but no one seems to be bringing adequate supplies to replenish the dilapated general stores.

This is an ugly picture.

Michod waves his magic wand and a completely depressing and an unappealing environment surrounds us at every turn.

Through the hopelessness, however, we do hope for Eric.

His tireless methods to demand satisfaction - like the Terminator on a relentless quest - peak our interest as violent collision course is inevitable.

“The Rover” certainly isn’t a fun movie, but it is beautifully crafted and captured.

In the end, Michod offers a very memorable experience in a time I hope we never see.

Image credits: A24


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