Tuesday, June 24, 2014

The Rover - One Man's Search For Justice In the Land of the Lawless

The Rover - Guy Pearce & Robert Pattinson | A Constantly Racing Mind
" I am looking for my car. There are three men in it.  Have you seen it?"

T he opening scenes of "The Rover" warn the viewer that this is not a slick Hollywood Blockbuster, instead it is a carefully paced film that loves wide open spaces, and with a sense of turmoil that burns below the surface.  "The Rover" typifies Australian cinematic style in this manner as well as the sudden bursts of violence that shatters the narrative and reminds the viewer that the world that we are wandering in. is a wilderness of pain and violence.  Guy Pearce ("Memento," "The Count of Monte Cristo," "Animal Kingdom," "Lockout ") stars along with Robert Pattinson ("Water for Elephants," "The Twilight Saga: New Moon") in this straight forward narrative of two men searching for the life and security that the world once held for them. “  The Rover" is a violent film, and deserves its R rating, and runs about 1 hour and 40 minutes.

The opening title card only says "10 years after the collapse."  The fall of the Western economy leads many to the mines of Australia to eke out a living. Thievery and robbery are the norm, and the price of water and petrol are high.   David Michôd ("Animal Kingdom" "Hesher") and writer and actor Joel Edgerton ("The Great Gatsby," "Star Wars: Episode II - Attack of the Clones") ,  tells a direct narrative of brutality in the Australian outback.   Sitting in his car, Eric (Guy Pearce) finally decides to exit his compact car and enter a bar for a drink.  Pearce’s Eric is dressed in a short sleeved shirt and a pair of shorts, as if he was planning on doing some gardening in his backyard but decided to have a drink instead.  He has a full beard and moustache and his hair is a slicked back mess and thinning.  Approaching the bar from a short distance are three men in a small pickup truck covered in mud.  They are fighting with one another.  A wounded Henry (Scoot McNairy), argues with Archie (David Field) who is sitting in the back seat while Caleb (Tawanda Manyimo) drives the getaway car.  They are arguing over leaving Hank’s brother Rey (Robert Pattinson) behind either wounded or dead in the street.  A struggle ensues and the car goes crashing by the barroom window as Eric drinks his beer morosely.  The three men, sitting in their car, uninjured, try to get the car to move but cannot.  Two men in the bar leave the bar with shotguns to investigate and Eric follows.  Archie leaves the backseat and breaks into Eric's car and electronically hotwires it; the other two follow.  Eric is able to start the truck and pursues the three carjackers.  

The Rover - Guy Pearce as Eric | A Constantly Racing Mind

During the pursuit, Eric catches up to the thieves, but is knocked unconscious and left on the side fo the road. Upon awaking,  Eric stops at every shithole town that litters the Australian desert.  He also finds himself at odds with an old brothel/opium den owner who goes by the name of Grandma (Gillian Jones), several Chinese acrobats and a dwarf (Jamie Fallon), whom Eric ends up murdering in a quite nonchalant way.  Eric also runs into Rey who is losing blood from a gunshot wound.  After driving miles to find a doctor, Eric finds one by the name of Dorothy (Susan Prior).  After she removes the bullet, cleans, and dresses the wound, Dorothy finds Eric in a shed where she keeps quite a few dogs held in cages.  Watching the caged dogs, Eric is quiet and filled with sorrow. He sits in front of them and sobs.  Dorothy tells him that the owners left the dogs with her to care for.  The owners never returned.  She didn’t want to release the dogs because she knows that they would be killed and eaten as food.  The next day during an encounter with the Chinese acrobats who came avenge the dwarf..  Eric uses Dorothy’s rifle to shoot them from a distance.  Rey, still recovering, marvels at his accuracy.  Eric takes Rey with him as he is the key in finding the brother, the other two thieves and his car.  

Eric’s car acts as a McGuffin in this film.  It seems to be Eric’s purpose for living.  One must ask themselves why the damn car is so important.  The interaction between Eric and Rey, which starts out guarded, is insightful to the audience.  We find that Eric is an ex-soldier and a failed farmer and Rey is a young American man who may be described as one with limited mental abilities.  Rey is a role that Robert Pattinson gives an exceptionally good performance.  His mannerisms and the difficulty he has in getting his words out are painfully realistic.  Throughout the film, Rey’s character metamorphoses into something other than a mentally challenged kid who is severely dependent on his older brother.   

The Rover -  Eric and Rey getting bullets | A Constantly Racing Mind

The theme of friendship and trust grows throughout the film in small yet credible ways.  Eric is harder to fathom as he is a man full of despair, and acts as a one whose search for meaning has failed.  After Rey accidently kills a motel owner’s daughter, he ends up in a gunfight with a soldier who Eric dispatches matter-of factly.  The next day Rey is deep in thought and tells Eric that he is thinking of the girl he killed.  Eric replies, "You should never stop thinking about a life you take.  That is the price you pay for taking it."

As the two travel the Australian Wasteland there are people surrealistically crucified on the side of the road.  Eric is morose throughout the film with an air of existentialism on the surface but with a terrible anger boiling beneath.  At one point, after being captured by the soldiers, he talks to the Sargent filling out his transfer papers.  Eric asks the soldier why he doesn't just kill him rather than sending him to Sydney.  The soldier’s reply borders on the absurd, "Why shoot them, if we shoot them and never send them to Sidney they will wonder why they are paying us.”  He then confesses to the soldier about murdering his wife 10 years before. For Eric, the loss of structure, the lawlessness, and the struggle just to survive, leaves the his world meaningless and sullen.  As Eric awaits his death, gunshots ring out, and within seconds, the soldier he just confessed to, is dead.  Rey arrives like the cavalry to the rescue.  Welcome to the apocalyptic version of Steinbeck's "Of Mice and Men."

The Rover -  Eric sorrowful and morose | A Constantly Racing Mind

Amidst the ramshackle buildings and the desert heat and openness, “The Rover” is paced stubbornly and has a quality reminiscent of "The Book of Eli."  Michôd questions the value of the Rule of Law, or in this case the lack of it.  One sits mesmerized to the screen as each scene and each act of violence unfolds and you are given time to reflect on what the world has come to.  The Human psyche is a fragile thing and in either Eric and Rey’s world, or your own world, where respect for human life and politeness come into question as each bit of civility, slowly and insidiously is stripped from humanity.  The film exudes complacency as seen near the end when an old man watches the murder of his companions.

Have I scared you with a description of this film?  Don’t be, my intentions are only to guide you.  The Rover is a film for those who are not faint of heart and enjoys a directing style that aims clearly at telling a story of violence in a realistic but in a weirdly beautiful way. Natasha Braier's cinematography and Peter Sciberras editing doesn't rush or force the characters or the story.  "The Rover" is a film about the search for humanity, civility and the safety of structure.  The film is also about justice; not just justice for the film’s bad guys, but also for the "hero" as well. 

Movie Data

Genre: Crime, Drama
Year:  2014
Staring: Guy Pearce, Robert Pattinson, Scoot McNairy, Tawanda Manyimo, David Field, Susan Prior, Gillian Jones
Director: David Michôd
Producer(s): David Linde, David Michôd, Liz Watts
Writer: Joel Edgerton, David Michôd
Rating: R
Running Time: 102 minutes
Release Date:  6/20/2014

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