Stripped-down and taut, ‘Rover’ a study of a driven Guy Pearce

Like a “Road Warrior” writ small, “The Rover” skitters across a slightly futuristic Australia, a car chase pitched against a great void. But this doesn’t feel like an adventure movie, more like a stripped-down Western about a single-minded quest.

The single mind belongs to Eric (Guy Pearce), a blasted soul whose car is stolen while he’s getting a drink at a desolate spot in the outback. His wheels have been taken by three criminals fleeing a robbery; they’ve dumped their getaway vehicle outside.

This means Eric can actually commandeer their still-drivable car and make pursuit. Or, he could just take their car and drive away. In this wide-open world, that seems like a fair trade; yet he spends the rest of the film brutally tracking the thieves down. He has to have that car.

There’s no law enforcement around to set things right; the dog-eat-dog world is the result of an unexplained economic collapse, which has made people even more suspicious and corrupt than usual.

Complicating the hunt is a wounded robber, Rey (Robert Pattinson, of “Twilight” renown), left behind by his confederates. His trajectory crosses Eric’s path at an inopportune moment, and the two men are uneasily joined in the search.

“The Rover” is written and directed by David Michôd, whose 2010 “Animal Kingdom” heralded a tough new talent on the scene. Maybe because it’s so lean on the bone, “The Rover” is even better.

An exceedingly grim Guy Pearce — incongruously dressed in shorts throughout — is absolutely locked in to Eric’s survival mode. This is a figure without history and beyond morals, so his trek across the wasteland is not heroic, just determined. Think Mad Max, but without all the cuddly warmth.

At this point, Pearce has complete control of his onscreen presence, so it’s interesting to watch him opposite heartthrob Pattinson. Rey is dull-witted and childlike, and, although Pattinson might be over-busy at times, his twitchy performance makes for an effective contrast with his co-star.

I like movies that provide creature comforts and eye candy, but there’s something to be said for a film boiled down to essentials (in that sense, the barrenness of Australia’s Flinders Ranges is the perfect backdrop).

Michôd is playing a tricky game here: Lean too far on the abstract nature of the quest, and the movie turns into a parody of itself. Mostly he’s gotten the mix right, and “The Rover” cuts a strong, bloody groove.

“The Rover” (3½ stars)

A taut, if bleak, look at a grim fellow (Guy Pearce) trying to retrieve his stolen car in the barren Australian outback. Pearce is well-matched against Robert Pattinson in this slightly futuristic stunner from “Animal Kingdom” director David Michôd.

Rating: R, for violence, language

Showing: Alderwood Mall, Everett Stadium, Pacific Place, Thorton Place Stadium.

http://www.komonews.com/news/local/Kirkland-residents-reject-911-sculpture-say-its-ugly-263571881.html

More in Life

Co-owner Jason Parzyk carries two growlers to fill as he serves up beer at Lake Stevens Brewing Co. The first brewery in the city is celebrating one-year anniversary this weekend. (Andy Bronson / The Herald)
Beer of the Week: Lake Stevens Brewing Co.’s Sour Imperial

The beer has a depth and a complex flavor profile that goes beyond just another barrel-aged stout.

Legendary bluesman Curtis Salgado to play Arlington show

The Northwest blues-soul-funk-R&B living legend performs with Ben Hunter and Joe Seamons Nov. 18.

This year’s Snohomish Blues Invasion has an all-star lineup

Proceeds send the CD Woodbury Trio and the Benton-Townsend Duo to the International Blues Challenge.

Schack holiday show features Northwest watercolor artists

The free exhibit also will have three-dimensional works, such as jewelry, glass, ceramic and wood.

‘Three Billboards’ rooted in Frances McDormand’s rigid role

The actress of “Fargo” fame gives an Oscar-worthy performance in this black comedy on human nature.

‘The Hate U Give’ shows the burden of being black in America

Angie Thomas’ story of a teen girl covers the challenging experience of African Americans.

A merry Christmas concert with Amy Grant and Michael W. Smith

The Christian music stars will perform at Xfinity Arena with Jordan Smith of “The Voice” on Nov. 18.

‘Veep’ production postponed during Julia Louis-Dreyfus’ treatment

The 56-year-old star has been documenting her breast cancer fight on social media.

The Rucker Hill house is featured in the Twin Peaks series in Everett. (Kevin Clark / The Herald)
Living happily ever after in the ‘Twin Peaks’ house

Everett homeowners snagged a role in the recent reboot of the 1990s cult classic show.

Most Read