New On Blu: THE ROVER, Starring R-Pat and P-Guy. OK, “P-Guy” I Just Made Up

The Rover released today on Blu-Ray from Lionsgate

The setting is a post-societal Australian Outback. I know that immediately brings to mind motorcycle gangs in bondage gear and punk attire, but this is a more subdued and realistic world than George Miller’s vision. Stylistically, the film is more The Assassination Of Jesse James than Mad Max.

A few men — I’m not sure if I can even call them a gang, really — swerve offroad and get stuck. Finding it easier to hotwire another vehicle than to get unstuck, they steal the nearest car they can find — which happens to belong to a rather angry fellow named Eric (Guy Pearce). He’s none too thrilled at being robbed, and doggedly pursues them in their own vehicle, presumably to trade back.

What keeps the film from essentially falling on its non-existent plot is the introduction of Rey (Robert Pattinson). Left for dead by his brother and friends, he runs into Eric and they realize they’re after the same guys. Ray is something of a simpleton country boy, and Eric bullies him into joining his vendetta. The story is less about the plot — which is basically Pee-Wee’s Big Adventure — and more about the relationship that develops between the two leads. Eric is aggressive and cruel, and it’s unclear what he plans to do when he catches up to the car thieves. Does he just want the vehicle back, or is he planning some kind of vengeance? We know he has the ability and willingness to act with violence. Rey is trusting and friendly in a childlike way, though confused and scared by Eric’s aggression. The dynamic between these two characters is the driving force of the film, and as their relationship develops, their ultimate end becomes less clear.

With Guy Pearce and director David Michôd being known quantities, and having worked together on Animal Kingdom, all eyes are on co-star Rob Pattinson. While immensely popular as the star of the commercially successful and critically panned Twilight series, his performance in those films is risible, and he knows he has painted himself into a corner as a more of a teen heartthrob rather than a competent actor.

Look, it would be easy to crack wise that Pattinson finally found a character he could play by choosing a dimwit, or joke that he didn’t do “full retard” for the part, but let’s give credit where it’s due. He knows that certain corners of filmdom bear him some ill will, and he’s taking it on the noggin. This was a very wise career move, playing a very sympathetic character for the audience to latch onto: some of that sympathy is bound to rub off. He’s riveting in the part, fully embodying the character and making him believably doltish and nervous, then turning up both his outward confidence and inner conflict as the story progresses.

Quentin Tarantino has called The Rover “the best post-apocalyptic movie since the original Mad Max”. I’m not prepared to make such a hyperbolic statement (I can immediately think of several exceptions to this claim), but I did find it to be an emotionally engaging film. The concoction of poetic stillness punctuated by harsh violence isn’t a new technique, but it’s used well here and there’s a powerful sadness to the film that does elevate it, in a certain sense, above other post-apocalyptic films.

The Package

The Rover comes to Blu-Ray (and DVD) from Lionsgate. The package is an attractive one with artwork stylistically evocative of the film. My copy included a slipcover with different artwork from the case. Subtitles are included, which is helpful given some of the performances have strong accents or hushed or broken dialogue. Both the Blu-Ray and DVD editions of the film also include an Ultraviolet digital copy (HD, in the Blu-ray’s case).

Special Features and Extras

Something Elemental: Making The Rover (44:48)
 This fairly detailed Making-Of tracks the film’s conception, location, cast, and production. It’s the only real extra feature on the disc, and thankfully a good one.

Trailers (10:05)
 Includes promotional trailers for Locke, Enemy, Under The Skin, and Spring Breakers, plus — drumroll, please — an ad for Epix HD.

A/V Out.

Get it at Amazon:
 The Rover [Blu-Ray] | [DVD] | [Instant]

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