Australia, ten years after “The Collapse”. Starring Guy Pearce as Eric whose car has been stolen and he chases the thieves. He faces them down, they leave and he follows. On the way he meets an old woman (Gillian Jones) who asks him to take her grandson. One of the car thieves is Henry Scott McNairy whose brother Ray (Robert Pattinson ) travels with Eric. He takes the wounded Ray to a doctor (Susan Prior) who keeps dogs locked up to prevent people taking them for food. Eric comes on to a military camp and its “soldiers” take “outlaws” to Sydney. Maybe the “soldiers” are bounty hunters. Eric and Ray track down the car thieves…
A mixture of a post-apocalypse film and a western in which Eric is semi-mute and kills whoever crosses him, while Ray is an idiotic inarticulate side kick with a dixie accent. Neither are burdened with moral subtleties, heroic aspirations are well beyond their remit. Eric is on a mission of vengeance (naturally), he was a farmer who lost his family. The film doesn’t even bother to make excuses for casual death by gunfire, so I wondered if Sam Shepherd might turn up to provide some corny rationale.
SPOiLER ALERT! At the end of the film after killing the car thieves, Eric burns their bodies but lovingly buries his dog (was it in the boot of the car?). The dog symbolizes loyalty which is the one value Eric adheres to in this amoral wasteland. Anyone who is suspected of being predatory can expect to be shot, we are in Mad Max country here, without the bikers and neolithic settlements. This is directed by David Michôd who made the violent gangster film Animal Kingdom. It also nods towards Wake in Fright as it joins other stories of a dystopian Australia. This is simply what was once a society now lawlessly breaking down. The Australian landscape in Rover is a desiccated dust bowl lacking the romanticism of Tracks. Its dismal wasteland is punctuated with the emblems of primitive chic: a vulture flapping over the injured Eric, victims crucified on telegraph poles, rusting metal, derelict houses. People are depraved by the nihilism of kill or be killed, we even get that reliable standby of art house films, the mean irascible dwarf. Apart from the woman doctor who cages dogs for their protection (and who is kind and loyal), the rest of the cast live in a shitstorm of despair and rage. The military are not here to enforce law and order but to capture drifters and take them to some possibly grisly fate in Sydney. The empty savagery is punctuated with dialogue which is brutally to the point. Draws you in.