“The Rover”: Dude, Where's My Post-Apocalyptic Landscape?

By now the world needs another after-the-apocalypse movie only slightly more than it needs an actual apocalypse. Yet Animal Kingdom director David Michôd will not be denied his lawless near-future Outback, where tough violent men drive really dirty trucks and society no longer functions. Neither does his movie after about 20 minutes, except maybe as hoarse shout-out to the likes of Mad Max and The Road. Co-written by the director and Joel Edgerton, The Rover comes on very strong, then sputters, then takes too long to die. Within its flimsy braid of barely developed set pieces, a scruffy, angry Guy Pearce becomes scruffier and angrier when someone steals his car, and tries murderously hard to get it back. Robert Pattinson meanwhile tries murderously hard to be an actor, or at least to rebrand himself. It's not clear why his character is an American hillbilly simpleton, but the movie itself seems to say, “Whatever.” What makes these dusty dystopias so boring nowadays is that everyone in them is for some reason or another completely fearless. They ask for trouble, and get it, and there you go. Michôd enjoys contriving violence, and making us wait for Pearce to work up a tear, and all that's left to say about The Rover is that as a shaggy dog story, it has a fitting payoff.

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