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Monday, August 25, 2014

The Rover

I hate to dump on personal, independent flicks, I really do, but...

This review is also up at Channel 24.

What it's about

Set in Australia after a giant economic collapse, the Rover tells the story of a loner who embarks on a mission to reclaim the car that is stolen from him with the help of the brother of one of the thieves.

What we thought

The Rover is the eagerly awaited follow-up to David Michod's breakthrough film, Animal Kingdom, and being very much aimed at art house crowds, it has, not surprisingly, been on the receiving end of a number of very positive reviews. Personally though, I was bored senseless by it.

The film's admirers point to the film's use of the desolate Australian planes as the perfect representation of a desolate future, while at the same time applauding the film's bare-bones minimalism that places atmosphere and mood over plot and characterization. Then, of course, there's also the matter of the very strong performances of its two lead actors. Guy Pierce is in typically very fine form and Robert Pattinson takes yet another giant leap away from Twilight in what may well be his best role yet.

The problem though, is that these individual elements don't really add up to very much. Nothing here is particularly original as it invokes everything from Mad Max to the Road but it's nowhere near as good as any of its influences. Its lack of narrative thrust, lethargic pacing and general sense of ponderousness are never countered by a sense of humour, strong character work or interesting themes. It's a long, drawn out dirge that goes nowhere interesting, very, very slowly.

It's the sort of film where you can easily admire the intents of the filmmaker and even be wowed by some of the very effective cinematography but with nothing to really chew on – be it emotionally or intellectually – it can't help but be dead on arrival.

Some have called it visceral, even shocking, but for all of its sudden outbursts of violence, the film failed utterly to raise the pulse for even a moment, while its bleak nihilism feels more tired and tiring than brave or engaging.

I hate to write off an apparently well-intentioned, personal film with one of my shortest reviews to date but The Rover is too dull to even get worked up about and too simple-minded in its nihilism to ever evoke much discussion.

Check it out if you're looking for plenty of beautifully bleak shots of Australian desert, a couple of strong performances and not much else

Sorry Mr Michod. Better luck next time.

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