HTS Moderator , Reviewer
Title: The Rover
HTS Overall Score:79
I don’t know what it is about the Australian outback, but it seems to be a magnet for post-apocalyptic thrillers of all shapes and sizes, from the bizarre-ness of Tank Girl, to the crazy sci-fi-like “Mad Max” trilogy. Even movies like “The Road” (even though not Australian) have mimicked this age old genre filled with bleak situations and harsh men and women trying to survive. “Mad Max” tends to be more Blockbusterish than “The Rover”, as this entry is much more laid back and hauntingly serene at times. We get to see the harshness of life seen in “The Road”, just without the overwhelming depression, and kind of reminds me a little bit of “The Proposal”, a more Aussie western which also helmed Guy Pearce as the leading man. “The Rover” is bleak, slightly depressing, yet hypnotically engrossing, even when there’s not a lot going on that pushes the seemingly main story forward.
Eric (Guy Pearce) is a man on a mission, going somewhere, for some unknown reason in a post-apocalyptic world that is that way for some unknown reason. Stopping off for a rest break in the middle of nowhere, he gets his car hijacked by a group of thieves on their way back from what appears to be a botched robbery. Setting out after the thieves, Eric catches up to them only to be knocked unconscious and left for dead in the middle of the road. Unnervingly focused, our grizzled hero gets up, dusts himself off and continues on the pursuit, only to find one of the thieves’ younger brother, Rey (Rob Pattinson), left for dead in town. Patching up Rey with the help of a country doctor, Eric uses the simple young hick as a tool to track down the rest of the thieves, mercilessly pushing the boy to the brink in his quest to recover the car they stole. As the two travel together, their dislike of each other (mainly on Eric’s end), starts to fade into an uneasy sort of alliance, and the loneliness and the struggle of life bond them together, as if they are the only people left on earth. Together they are able to track down the rest of the criminals, and while Rey is determined to kill his brother for leaving him for dead, Eric….well, Eric just wants his car back.
Michod uses a rather hypnotic sound track and a helter-skelter editing style that is both irritating and strangely calming. The atmosphere is bleak and hopeless, as you realize that there is very little in this world that is worth living for. This is a universe where "every man for himself" is the law of the land: a rag tag group of soldiers does whatever will get them by and not attract the attention of their superiors, and people kill, beat, and steal for whatever they want. Even Eric is cold and calculating, seemingly brutally blunt one moment and then turns around and without hesitation uses some extremely shocking violence. There’s not a LOT of action in the film, but the action that is used is harsh and brutal, seeming to sideswipe the viewer as it comes out of nowhere and vanishes just as quickly, without any lingering shots or sad music pieces to elicit emotional response from the viewer.
Rob Pattinson is usually known for having the acting range of rubber band gun, and the emotional range of a boulder being kicked across the floor by a two year old. Strangely enough in “The Rover,” we see a much more complex individual; he plays Rey in a sort of “is he stupid or is he not?” sort of way. At one moment Rey appears to be a simple country hick with limited intelligence, solely basing his worth off of his brother’s approval and skating through life with his hands in his pockets, then the next you see a sort of cold and harsh schemer come to the surface, planning his own brother’s death for leaving him. Guy Pearce is pure gold as a “Road Warrior” (pun intended) though. He seems to be driven by nothing other than the will to survive, merciful when he needs to be, and willing to let well enough alone, but will turn around and put a bullet through your head without batting an eyelash (literally). The majority of the film you’re not sure just WHY getting his car back means so much to him. He’s able to pick up a couple abandoned vehicles that appear to be in better shape than his dilapidated vehicle, but he’s solely fixated on that little beat up junker of his. It honestly made me wonder what his driving force was until the last five minutes of the movie, and it becomes abundantly clear just why he was willing to go to such great lengths for an inconsequential piece of metal.
“The Rover” is hauntingly beautiful and terrifyingly bleak at the same time, and does a wonderful job at not over-explaining things. We’re not told why the world is in the shape it is, we just know it IS by the situations in the movie. We’re not told that life is hard, but all it takes is looking at the expressions on the characters faces to realize that the struggle to survive is very prevalent on a day to day basis. Even Eric, as cold and brutal as he is, has a side of himself that wishes for a better life. When he’s sitting there in the military base waiting to be transferred, he gives a power speech about murdering his wife and the man he caught her cheating on him with. No one cared what he did, no one came to lock him up, no one even gave him a second glance, and in his mind when you do something of that magnitude, someone should notice. So seeing himself turned in for a much lighter crime fills him with a sense of hopelessness and despair, as if he’s a blip on a radar, not worthy of anyone’s time unless he gets in their way.
Rated R for language and some bloody violence
[img]http://www.hometheatershack.com/gallery/file.php?n=27473[/img]Call me old-fashioned, but seeing “The Rover” being shot on actual film makes me incredibly happy and adds a warmth to the movie that digital just can’t express. The film is raw and gritty, and the layer of grain overlaying the image adds to that gritty texture. This doesn’t mean that there is a lack of detail; the image is wonderfully detailed to where you can see the individual white hairs and Guy Pearce’s bead and the little flecks of dirt being ground into Rob Pattinson’s clothing and skin. Colors are a bit desaturated and lean mostly towards browns and other earthy colors, giving the picture sort of bleak and desolate feel. The blacks are inky and deep as you can imagine, with only a hint or two of color banding in the darkness (usually against the added brightness of a fire). Simply marvelous looking, “The Rover” is textured and full of life amidst a story that seems to want to extinguish said life. Bravo Lionsgate, bravo.
[img]http://www.hometheatershack.com/gallery/file.php?n=27481[/img]The audio is just about as good as the video with only a few minor caveats. Dialogue is clean and clear, but I do feel it was recorded just a tad low for liking, I had to boost it a full decibel to get it to match the rest of the sound effects in my theater. The only other thing I’ll say about the dialogue is that the heavy accents sometimes made it a bit hard to understand, but that’s an issue with the language (or accent) barrier rather than issue with the encode. Surrounds are used sparingly, but effectively, as Michod infuses the channels with subtle ambiance and detail, ranging from the chirping of a bird, the crackling of wood over a fire to the scrape of door opening. LFE can punch you in the gut from nowhere, much like the violence, and then subside just as quickly. It’s not a powerhouse track, but it does the job quite nicely and should please most people.
• Something Elemental: Making "The Rover"
“The Rover” can be a bit slow at times and is a bit more of a character driven drama than anything, but it still is mesmerizing, and at times repulsive, in a way that totally fascinated me. Michod’s directorial style is rather laid back and meandering, but it has its pay off, giving you insight into his characters with just a facial expression, just a tick of the eye or a tear rolling down a person’s face at just the right moment. It's shot gorgeously in the Australian outback with a great video encode, and the audio is no slouch either. Definitely a recommendation to watch in my opinion.
Starring: Guy Pearce, Rob Pattinson, Scoot McNairy
Directed by: David Michod
Written by: David Michod, Joel Edgerton
Aspect Ratio: 2.40:1 AVC
Audio: ENGLISH: DTS-HD MA 5.1
Runtime: 103 Minutes
Blu-ray Release Date: September 23rd 2014
Buy The Rover Blu-ray on Amazon
Recommendation: Watch It
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