The Rover

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DIR/WRI: David Michô PRO: David Linde, David Michôd,Liz Watts • DOP: Natasha Braier  ED: Peter Sciberras DES: Josephine Ford  MUS: Antony Partos  CAST: Guy Pearce, Robert Pattinson, Scoot McNairy

In a world bereft of new Twilight films, anything that Robert Pattinson does is going to be looked at, and he couldn’t have gone further (in almost every way) in this film, which is set in a desolate, dilapidated Australia “ten years after the collapse” and begins with grubby Eric (Guy Pearce) driving across the dusty, deserted land. We don’t know where he’s going or why, but his eyes are fixed in a thousand yard stare and only just register signs of life when his car is stolen outside a lonely bar.

After revving the thieves abandoned truck out of the ditch it landed in when it crashed, he gives chase. The injured Henry (Scoot McNairy) and his two scavenger friends can’t believe it, and even when they pepper the truck with bullets and come to a halt, standing off like cowboys on the road, Eric vows that he won’t stop following them until they give his car back.

Elsewhere, a shot and bleeding Rey (Pattinson) clambers into a dying soldier’s Hummer and sets off along the road. He’s chasing after Henry too; he was a member of the gang and got left behind for dead when things went wrong.

Eric comes to and gets back into the truck, then stops at every bizarre roadside shack looking for information – and to buy a gun. Now the killing begins. Back outside, Rey appears and unwittingly asks Eric where he got Henry’s truck from; now Eric has a way to get his car back, though first he has to get Rey patched up at the house of a bush doctor (Susan Prior).

As they drive, drive, drive, Eric says little and seems to care even less, while the seemingly slow-witted Rey struggles with being left behind. Sleeping under the stars, they’re soon on the run from the army too as they make for the small town where the gang was due to lay low…

Owing a great deal to Westerns, the legacy of Mad Max – and the often-forced quirkiness of David Lynch too – this rather frustrating but compelling film is held together by excellent performances from the leads. Pearce – his shoulder hunched, his eyes looking exhausted and his mind as focused as a psychopaths – is as intense as the ruined country he now lives in, while Pattinson is a revelation, a mass of ticks and confusion as he heavy-breathes and tries to come to terms with not only his sibling betrayal, but the fact his only source of hope is a man unconcerned with humanity.

The shoot took place in sweltering and isolated spots of Australia, and it certainly did its job: you’re always itching for a shower. The countless supporting characters – many of them local people and all of them shouldering rifles – look so drawn and wild that they could easily fit into the world of JRR Tolkien.

But it’s relentlessly grim, violent stuff, and the long stretches of time when we simply follow the car or Eric sits in silence while Rey tries desperately to make a connection, the pair of them seeming like Lennie and George from Of Mice and Men, can get very tiresome.

There are some major self-serving logic problems too; it’s unbelievable that Henry’s truck is drivable after the crash we see – let alone that they leave it by the unconscious Eric after he’s just said he’d never stop chasing them – and as thieves it’s inconceivable that they wouldn’t bother to look in the boot, or at least siphon out the precious petrol.

Eric never seems to want for water or food either – though he almost seems like he doesn’t need it – and the thing that was in his car? Well, I’ll leave it to you to decide whether – and why – it was worth it all the dead bodies.

 

James Bartlett

16 (See IFCO for details)
102 mins

The Rover is released on 15th August 2014

The Rover  – Official Website

 

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ChM2icbWo9w

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Animal Kingdom

Animal Kingdom

DIR/WRI: David Michôd • PRO: Liz Watts • DOP: Adam Arkapaw • ED: Luke Doolan • DES: Josephine Ford • Cast: Jacki Weaver, James Frecheville, Guy Pearce, Joel Edgerton

There is a recurring trend in film at the moment, the recession seems to have given everyone a bad case of the blues, and films have been given a heavy dose of ‘grit’ of late. Words like ‘gritty’ and ‘crime underworld’ have been thrown about haphazardly for so long that they have almost lost their meaning. The bright side to all of this visual murkiness is that it is incredibly refreshing when a film comes along that infuses meaning back into the words, and retains enjoyment while being bleak. Writer/director David Michôd’s Animal Kingdom is one such film.

Animal Kingdom explores Melbourne’s crime underworld in an innovative way. The film is heavily character-driven and Michôd adds a level of fatalism to the human condition. There are no exit clauses here, no happy endings. Our director shows us in no uncertain terms that we are not in Kansas anymore. The film follows the story of the Cody brothers, a gang of armed robbers who are unabashedly adored by their mother Smurf. Each brother comes with his own baggage and, refreshingly, each brother is shown in detail to ensure that we know our characters better than they seem to know themselves. Whilst oldest brother ‘Pope’ struggles with his best friend’s change of heart, younger brothers Craig and Darren wage their own private wars with cocaine addiction and conscience respectively. As the brothers attempt to initiate their teen nephew ‘J’ into their gang, it seems that nothing can go smoothly for them, but the undying love of their mother remains strong, if a little misguided.

What sets this film apart from every other gritty crime drama we have been barraged with is that it is full of heart. Unusually for the drama, we grow to love our anti-heroes and we wish for them to see the error of their ways. Each actor has thrown everything into their performance in order to create a film in which nothing is lacking, no stone is left unturned. Stand-out performances include Guy Pearce as senior police officer Nathan Leckie and the Cody brothers themselves played by Ben Mendelsohn, Joel Edgerton and Luke Ford. James Frecheville and Jacki Weaver give solid performances as J and Smurf but they are lost behind the on-screen magnificence of the brothers. Each character remains utterly believable as a human being as witty catchphrases are replaced with normal human conversation.

The pacing of the film is a stroke of genius. Michôd knows how to keep audience buttocks perched on the edge of a seat and he abuses that privilege throughout. It is one of few crime dramas in which a sea of girlfriends dragged along cannot be heard to say ‘Oh I get it now [insert spoiler]…sorry!’ It is a film which is as violent on its audience as it is on its characters and yet it remains a thing of visual beauty, omitting the deep blue hues which seem to follow the genre. Here is a brutal genre piece which will play on your mind for long after the credits have finished rolling.

Animal Kingdom is the best Aussie film of the year, which admittedly isn’t all that difficult, but this film truly is something special. A menace to society, but who doesn’t love a baddie?

Ciara O’Brien

Rated 15A (see IFCO website for details)
Animal Kingdom
is released on 25th February 2011

Animal Kingdom – Official Website

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=R5BsYRmMfus[/youtube]

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