Review: 'The Rover'

Here's one bit of good news. When "the Collapse" happens, the U.S. dollar will still be the dominant form of currency, not the Euro. That's a nice surprise I took from “The Rover,” a dark, dreary and dull “Mad Max in Neutral” from director David Michôd (“Animal Kingdom”) that tries to pass off its blunt narrative and repetitiveness as some sort of style. Its finest quality is actually that of a soporific.

It's a shame, as it is, like “Cosmopolis,” an example of Robert Pattinson doing solid work, but in a movie that is very difficult for mainstream audiences to like. Pattinson isn't the star, though. He ends up the deceptively simple sidekick to Guy Pearce – an “Of Mice And Men” relationship in the Australian wastelands as Pearce tries to hunt down the three thieves that stole his car (one of whom is Pattinson's brother.)

Though U.S. dollars can still get you petrol, most people have left money behind and make their transactions with bullets. As Pearce and Pattinson zoom off on their quest, it's rare that an obstacle isn't overcome with gunshots.

Michôd doesn't stage shootouts – this is no John Woo film – but the violence snaps up quickly, loudly and flatly. Pearce's performance is yet another version of the thousand-yard stare, don't-mess-with-me-loner on the frontier. He seems to have survival all figured out but inside, naturally, he's all turmoil. The very end of the film reveals what is, on the surface at least, driving him, and some people will find it rewarding. Personally, I found it idiotic. The title of this movie is something of a pun – and an unexpected one at that.

“The Rover”'s modus operandi is rough exterior driving sequences, gloomy interiors in hot, gross places (nobody wears a shirt, and some of these fellas really should if they're on camera) and then bleak late night soul-searching talks. The hope for these conversations, I imagine, is something poignant and aching like “There Will Be Blood” (“I have a competition in me. . .”) but all I got out of Pearce was macho posturing.

I won't go so far as to say that Pattinson gives a great performance, but considering what little is expected of him (his presence is enough to secure a small movie's pre-sales numbers) he's not bad. His half-wit characterization cribs a bit from “Sling Blade,” and his cuckoo eyes and grunts definitely need to be reeled in. But he's the only character in the film worth caring about, and when he does reveal the skills the character has up his sleeve, it is effective.

There's one moment in “The Rover” that is completely out of step with the rest of the movie. Shoved in as a story non-sequitur we catch Pattinson alone in the car singing along to Keri Hilson's “Pretty Girl Rock.” It's funny and touching and far and away the best thing in this film. It also lasts about 60 seconds – an island oasis in an unwelcoming desert.

SCORE: 4.6/10