Australian director David Michôd made a huge splash on the international movie scene with his directional debut Animal Kingdom. The film, a searing crime drama with incredible performances, made Michôd a director to watch and there was always going to a lot of pressure on his follow-up. Michôd chose not to repeat himself, deciding to make a ‘futuristic’ revenge tale set in the Australian outback.
Michôd managed to avoid any comparisons with his debut feature, however you can’t have the words ‘futuristic’, ‘revenge’ and ‘Australian outback’ mentioned in a sentence without thinking of Mad Max. Now let’s get one thing clear – The Rover is no Mad Max. It’s a sparse drama, set in the not too distant future starring Guy Pearce as ‘The Rover’, attempting to get his stolen car back. Along for the ride is Robert Pattinson, the brother of the man who stole Pearce’s beloved car (Scoot McNairy). By writing that synopsis I’ve managed to add a complexity to The Rover that’s lacking on screen. Michôd’s film lacks a spark, it lacks fire, it lacks passion.
Co-written by actor Joel Edgerton, The Rover rumbles along without any narrative drive. Everything happens in an understated way, without ever being engaging. The bleak cinematography (courtesy of Natasha Braier) is somewhat hypnotic, but like the film, it becomes rather monotonous. The opening film states that events take place ‘ten years after the collapse’ and the character’s emphasis on US dollars implies that this vague event is socio-economic. However, like a lot of things, this goes unexplained.
Guy Pearce is fine in the lead role, but he’s a blank slate of a character, who is given little to do in the way of emoting. Even his big revelation is unveiled in an uninteresting way, offering little in the way of audience empathy. Pattinson mumbles his way through his role and it’s obvious he wants to be taken as a serious actor away from the Twilight movies. However his role here is so underdeveloped and uninteresting he barely comes across as competent.
The Rover is something of a misfire for David Michôd and it is an uninteresting drama with few dramatics. It proves that noble intentions aren’t enough to make a film captivating and that plot and complexity are needed to add something (anything) to a narrative.
The interviews and behind-the-scenes material for The Rover is much more interesting that the film. Skip the movie, watch the extras.