I have long been a fan of Guy Pearce, whose penchant for taking on small but meaningful roles has created one of the most diverse and surprising resumes for an actor of his caliber. Each week in 2020, I’ll be reviewing one of my Guy’s films, exploring just how wild his career has been.
Writer-director David Michôd and Guy Pearce worked together on Animal Kingdom to much acclaim. Their follow-up WAS The Rover — a dry, tough, strangely dull post-apocalyptic “monster people” trip through the Australian Outback.
Eric (Pearce) is a drifter whose car is stolen. He incidentally kidnaps one of the thieves (played by Robert Pattinson), then pursues the rest of the group across the wasteland. Along the way, Eric witnesses the dregs of humanity and utter collapse of the human spirit.
The Rover is one of those pastiches that brings a little of this, a little of that. A silent, angry protagonist? A dimwitted pseudo-sidekick? Cannibalism? Dog-avenging? Pedophiles? It’s so committed to depicting awfulness that nothing connects. Eric is interesting solely because of Pearce’s simmering sorrow over an undisclosed past incident that broke his soul. The monologue revealing it (like his speech in Animal Kingdom) is the pinnacle of this tale. However, unlike the past film, everything surrounding it isn’t up to snuff.
Gritty apocalypse fiction seemed to come back into popularity during the early 2010’s, which was arguably the most recently point in time when the Democratic world order felt like it might have a chance at staving off its prolonged 21st century decay. The Walking Dead t.v. show might be the most culturally relevant example, as that show itself is a shambling husk of the former phenomenon. Anyway, most of these products suck. They lack social commentary beyond “wow, people would be awful if they got the chance.” The Rover is a bit like that, but for several hours. Just a dire slog with some great cinematography and a good score. Warble warble.