Star Rating:

The Rover

Director: David Michod

Actors: Scoot McNairy

Release Date: Saturday 30th November 2013

Genre(s): Drama

Running time: Australia minutes

David Michod's Animal Kingdom showed there were was originality to be found in the gangster genre still, and The Rover offers up a different take on the post-apocalyptic film, throwing in a twisted version of the buddy-buddy road movie to boot. The insistence on introspection over action may trouble some, however.

The Rover opens ten years after 'the collapse' with society clinging to some semblance of order; army units patrol the deserted roads but they are undermanned and dangerous drifters are proving a match for them. As one such transient, Guy Pearce, seeks refreshment in an isolated bar, his car is stolen by a bleeding Scoot McNairy, escaping a botched shootout with two panicked buddies. Obsessed in reclaiming his one possession, Pearce coerces McNairy's dopey brother Pattinson, who was left for dead, into taking him to the gang’s hideout...

Mad Max and The Road are definite touchstones, but The Rover is more akin to a Western than a post-apocalyptic film. It's shy of the big incident because Michod's slow burner sidesteps film's tendency to let the bullets fly – he's given thought as to how things might be, how people act, that people are, generally speaking, reluctant to fire weapons. One chase sequence (more of a follow sequence actually) ends with an unarmed Pearce facing down three hardened shotgun-brandishing criminals, who display an unusual reluctance to fire. Later, it's Pearce who can’t bring himself to pull the trigger. When Pattinson accidently shoots a girl, it haunts him. The sudden outbursts of violence then are all the more shocking.

The story unfolds like an odd dream. There's no background, no exposition. It jolts forward in places but hesitant in others. There's an oppressing atmosphere, an unshakable dread that the worst is to come, that it's in the next room. Despite Susan Prior's doctor, whose caring for discarded dogs is the one flicker of hope for society, there's intangible air of futility that permeates every scene.

The monosyllabic Pearce is as ever solid, but Pattinson obliterates Edward Cullen from the memory with this shifty-shouldered, squinty-eyed, slack-jawed yokel. The itchiness, the rotten teeth, speaking like every word is painful, Pattinson's Rey looks plucked from a Sergio Leone oater. His Southern drawl feels out of place in the Outback, however.

Not as engaging as Animal Kingdom but still has power to shock.