The Rover review: Maximum madness in the Aussie outback

Film Title: THE ROVER

Director: Guy Pearce

Starring: Robert Pattinson, Scoot McNairy

Genre: Adventure

Running Time: 102 min

Fri, Aug 15, 2014, 11:01

   

Having painted suburban Melbourne as an inhuman wasteland in Animal Kingdom, David Michôd sounded like just the right man to create a proper apocalypse in the Australian outback. We’ve been here before. Concerning an obsessive man who, having lost all that matters, drives his car angrily about the interior, The Rover sounds a lot like the first Mad Max film. It’s slicker than that. It’s technically more accomplished. Unfortunately, it’s also a great deal less at home to humour. The film does have a definite punchline, but you couldn’t describe it as any sort of joke.

A terrifically gruff and depleted Guy Pearce turns out as lonesome driver Eric. While resting in a horrible roadside café, he has his car stolen by archetypal grump Archie (David Field), young gun Caleb (Tawanda Maryimo) and the puzzlingly American Henry (Scoot McNairy). Eric’s insanely obsessive pursuit of his vehicle takes up the rest of this suffocating, intensely nasty futuristic western.

Along the way, he hooks up with Henry’s idiot brother (a role that sees Robert Pattinson gallantly lose his fight with a southern accent) and reveals an extraordinary capacity for disproportionate violence. “When in doubt, have a man come through the door with a gun in his hand,” Chandler famously quipped. Michôd might add: “And blow everyone’s head clean off.”

The film is a bit one-note, but its atmosphere cannot be faulted, thanks to blotched cinematography and sparse music. Eric suffers from the same deranged tunnel vision that Lee Marvin’s character endured in John Boorman’s great Point Blank. Whereas Lee just wanted his money, Eric just wants his car back. Don’t you get it?

That singular focus does eventually wear you down. But that final surprising coda (it surprised this reviewer, anyway) goes some way towards making sense of the whole mad enterprise. Leave them feeling satisfied. Very clever.