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Originally published June 19, 2014 at 3:05 PM | Page modified June 20, 2014 at 8:40 AM

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‘The Rover’: Welcome to the wasteland

A review of David Michôd’s searing, unadorned film, “The Rover.” The movie rates three stars on a scale of four from Seattle Times movie critic Moira Macdonald.


Seattle Times movie critic

Movie Review ★★★  

‘The Rover,’ with Guy Pearce, Robert Pattinson, Scoot McNairy, David Field, Anthony Hayes, Gillian Jones, Susan Prior. Written and directed by David Michôd. 102 minutes. Rated R for language and some bloody violence. Several theaters.

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‘I was a farmer, and now I’m here,” says the quiet character at the center of “The Rover”; a taut, nameless island of a man in a sea of lawlessness. In David Michôd’s searing, unadorned film, “here” is the Australian outback, 10 years after a global catastrophe caused the collapse of the Western economic system. Society has broken down, but this man (played by Guy Pearce) has not, despite a clear toll taken by unspoken losses. In an early scene, his car is stolen by a gang of thugs, and “The Rover” becomes a combination of revenge thriller and futuristic western, its central character obsessed with getting that car back, at whatever the cost.

Michôd’s previous film, “Animal Kingdom,” was a hypnotic crime thriller about a lawless, vacant family, featuring a stunningly chilly performance by Jacki Weaver as the world’s most evil grandmother. (Actually, she’s got some competition in “The Rover”; Michôd seems intrigued by amoral grandmas.) “The Rover” feels like a slight step back; while it’s never less than compelling, the characters here are ciphers (particularly a deeply troubled young man played by a grunting Robert Pattinson) and the violence feels wearingly familiar.

But Pearce (who was in “Animal Kingdom” as well) effortlessly carries the movie with his elegant wariness; he’s always had a slightly mysterious quality on-screen, as if he’s holding something back for later. And Michôd, shooting his film in parched shades of brown and khaki, finds moments that linger with us: a living room that looks, weirdly, as if time has frozen; a scene in a car where Pattinson’s character sweetly sings along with a pop tune, finding comfort and a lost world within it. Very late in the film, the characters approach a ramshackle house, and there’s a startlingly pink flowering shrub by the front door. It’s as shocking as any blood; you wonder how, in this wasteland, such a thing could endure.

Moira Macdonald: 206-464-2725 or mmacdonald@seattletimes.com



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