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"THE ROVER"
(2014) (Guy Pearce, Robert Pattinson) (R)


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QUICK TAKE:
Drama: Ten years after a global economic collapse, a stoic loner takes a younger, wounded man hostage while trying to find the latter's brother who stole his car along with two other men.
PLOT:
It's ten years after a global economic collapse and a botched robbery in a remote part of Australia has left several men dead and one, Rey (ROBERT PATTINSON), severely injured. Rey's brother, Henry (SCOOT McNAIRY), has fled with his two associates, Archie (DAVID FIELD) and Caleb (TAWANDA MANYIMO), but a disagreement between Henry and Archie results in their truck crashing and becoming stuck. As a result, they steal a car belonging to a mysterious drifter, Eric (GUY PEARCE), and speed away.

Angry about the theft and determined to get his car back, Eric manages to free the stuck truck and gives chase, only to end up knocked out. He eventually runs into Rey who wonders why he has Henry's truck, but passes out from his injuries before explaining his relationship with that man. Knowing he needs him alive to get that information, Eric gets Rey to a doctor who patches him up, with the two then becoming an unlikely duo as they search for the three men who have Eric's car.

OUR TAKE: 6 out of 10
Nothing's that surprising in show business, where talented people sometimes never obtain stardom, while those lucky enough to appear in monstrous hits often become big stars while also running the risk of forever being typecast as their onscreen alter-ego personas. Such is the case when comparing Guy Pearce to Robert Pattinson.

Following his breakthrough role as a drag queen in "The Adventures of Priscilla, Queen of the Desert," Pearce seemingly was on his way to stardom by appearing in "L.A. Confidential" and then the terrific "Memento." Yet, while the 46-year-old Brit born Australian had a number of starring roles in major films, he never quite broke out like, say, Russell Crowe (his co-star in "L.A. Confidential"), and now mostly appears in supporting parts and smaller, art-house style flicks.

Pattinson, on the other hand, appeared in a smaller part in two "Harry Potter" films before shooting into the cinematic stratosphere playing Edward Cullen in "Twilight" and its follow-up sequels. While he's also played parts in pics such as "Remember Me" and "Water for Elephants," the 28-year-old Brit has seemingly been in danger of forever being associated as a heartthrob in the critically maligned vampire franchise.

That could change thanks to the two actors being paired up in the dystopian crime drama, "The Rover." In it, Pearce plays the title character, an apparent drifter who isn't pleased when three criminals (David Field, Tawanda Manyimo and Scoot McNairy) steal his car, a vehicle he really, really, really wants back. In his attempts to track down those men, he runs into Pattinson's character, the severely wounded brother of one of those criminals who was left for dead by them during a botched criminal act.

Seemingly a bit mentally slow, Pattinson's character becomes an unlikely traveling companion for Pearce's singularly determined character who initially only sees the "half-wit" as a dispensable tool he can use to track down the men. As helmed by writer/director David Michod, the film will likely draw comparisons to George Miller's far more revved up action film, "Mad Max" (and its better known follow-up "The Road Warrior"), what with the dystopian Australian setting, criminal characters and a determined anti-hero protagonist.

Yet, it's more akin to an old Clint Eastwood style Western where a loner who wants no trouble from anyone gets just that from some outlaws and then sets off to track them down and retrieve what's his. The final scene in the film eventually reveals what that is (and packs something of an unexpected emotional wallop as the payoff), but until then much of the movie plays out in a deliberate, slow burn fashion, occasionally interrupted by bits of action and brutal violence.

Although that's certainly nothing new, which also holds true for the following, it's the unexpected relationship between the two men that makes the film more interesting than if the plot had simply focused on the anti-hero in hunt-down mode. The compelling part is seeing Pearce's character ever-so-slightly soften a bit while getting to know this stranger, all while Pattinson's somewhat grows out of a somewhat sheltered shell into his own man, albeit with lots of stumbles along the way.

While Pearce is as good as ever (he's one of those character actors I've always enjoyed watching, regardless of the role), it's Pattinson who's the revelation here. Somewhat unrecognizable in physical appearance, the actor gives what's arguably his best performance to date. Playing a simpleton sort of character is always a risky venture (coming off as Oscar bait, or offensive or cloying, etc.), but the actor nails the part in imbuing the character with subtle shades of complexity that make him and his relationship with Pearce's character all the more interesting.

While the film doesn't really deliver anything new to the dystopian sub-genre of action-dramas, it works, for the most part, in being a contemporary western of sorts, with an Eastwood style character driving the story through his singular desire. Beautifully shot and moody in its slow burn approach, "The Rover" rates as a 6 out of 10.




Reviewed June 10, 2014 / Posted June 20, 2014


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