Weird pacing undercuts strong performances in this dark post-apocalyptic drama | Film Review | Indy Week
Pin It

Weird pacing undercuts strong performances in this dark post-apocalyptic drama 

In 1983, ABC aired The Day After, a made-for-TV movie about the effects of a nuclear war in small-town America. It was hyped as the scary movie to end all scary movies. At the tender age of 11, I was forbidden to watch it.

Naturally, I sneaked down to the basement TV that night and endured it alone. I was thoroughly traumatized and developed a lifelong morbid obsession with post-apocalypse stories. I've read all the books and seen all the movies. It's really not healthy.

It is useful, though, for assessing a movie such as THE ROVER, a stone-cold bummer out of Australia starring Guy Pearce as a kind of leaner, meaner Mad Max with fewer scruples and more depressive episodes. Directed and co-written by David Michôd (Animal Kingdom), it's a grim piece of work, aggressively bleak and violent.

The film opens with a title card that reads "10 years after the collapse." We never learn what the collapse was, but the Australian outback is now a wasteland inhabited by desperate survivors and the occasional military patrol. Armored cargo trains, marked with Asian ideograms and guarded by evil-looking mercenaries, rumble past crucified corpses.

Pearce plays lone wanderer Eric, a man of very few words who has the million-mile stare of the PTSD-afflicted. When a gang of equally desperate men steals his car, Eric embarks on a monomaniacal quest to track them down. His determination seems out of proportion. What's so important about that car?

Eric encounters fellow desperado Rey (Robert Pattinson), a "halfwit" American with developmental issues and a nasty bullet wound. Pattinson is flat-out brilliant in the role—it's the kind of performance that can change a career trajectory.

Michôd strings together a sequence of brutal set pieces as Eric pursues his vehicle by any means necessary. Among the highlights is an old circus encampment where the carnies are ruled by a figure known as "Grandma" (Gillian Jones), whose serenity is disconcerting. Later, when Eric and Rey hole up with a homesteading doctor, we learn more about Eric's darkest depths, and what he's capable of.

This is not a heroic role, and Pearce gives an intense, courageous performance. He plays Eric as a hardened survivor whose humanity has been scraped away by painful degrees. It's a surprise that Pearce and Pattinson together are such an ace duo.

Unfortunately, weird pacing and editing undermine their efforts. Michôd lets the camera linger at tedious lengths on the most random things: Eric shaving, Rey walking across a road. These choices are baffling, and the dialogue is frustrating, too. There must be a dozen separate scenes that consist of one character repeating a single question and getting no answer.

I suppose this is all deliberate and Means Something on an existential level, but it slows the film down and handicaps the storytelling. The ending doesn't play, either, though we finally find out about that car and can intuit the pitch-black humor the filmmakers were aiming for. The Rover is certainly worthwhile for fans of the genre—it's similar to The Road in its menacing tone—but it doesn't add anything new to the post-apocalypse canon.

This article appeared in print with the headline "Bad Max"

Comments

Subscribe to this thread:

Add a comment

INDY Week publishes all kinds of comments, but we don't publish everything.

  • Comments that are not contributing to the conversation will be removed.
  • Comments that include ad hominem attacks will also be removed.
  • Please do not copy and paste the full text of a press release.

Permitted HTML:
  • To create paragraphs in your comment, type <p> at the start of a paragraph and </p> at the end of each paragraph.
  • To create bold text, type <b>bolded text</b> (please note the closing tag, </b>).
  • To create italicized text, type <i>italicized text</i> (please note the closing tag, </i>).
  • Proper web addresses will automatically become links.

Latest in Film Review



Twitter Activity

Comments

Who said the themes are wrath, cataclysm and redemption? Three Billboards may not be the brilliant film some think, but …

by Scott Mooneyham on The Tonally Incoherent Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri Hasn't a Clue How to Manage Its Weighty Themes and Discordant Plot (Film Review)

I'd be more interested with different actors, but at least it's not a fucking super hero movie or squequel, so …

by terryboo on H.P. Lovecraft Meets Art House Cinema in the Odd, Ominous A Ghost Story (Film Review)

Most Read

No recently-read stories.

Visit the archives…

Most Recent Comments

Who said the themes are wrath, cataclysm and redemption? Three Billboards may not be the brilliant film some think, but …

by Scott Mooneyham on The Tonally Incoherent Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri Hasn't a Clue How to Manage Its Weighty Themes and Discordant Plot (Film Review)

I'd be more interested with different actors, but at least it's not a fucking super hero movie or squequel, so …

by terryboo on H.P. Lovecraft Meets Art House Cinema in the Odd, Ominous A Ghost Story (Film Review)

Spiderman homecoming is the best spider man movie that I have seen yet https://goo.gl/jhKahk

by Hazel Gomez on Spider-Man: Homecoming Makes a Fifty-Five-Year-Old Hero Feel Like a Kid Again (Film Review)

I was born and raised in Bertie County, and believe me, this was painful and beautiful to watch. I was …

by Tar Heels forever on Know More About Manhattan Than Your Embattled Neighbors in Rural North Carolina? Then See Raising Bertie. (Film Review)

Clint's film is trashy? maybe that's why all of us pigs would like to wallow in it.

by Jovana Dimitrijevic on In Her Remake of Clint Eastwood's Lurid, Trashy The Beguiled, Sofia Coppola Probes Deeper Rhythms (Film Review)

© 2017 Indy Week • 320 E. Chapel Hill St., Suite 200, Durham, NC 27701 • phone 919-286-1972 • fax 919-286-4274
RSS Feeds | Powered by Foundation