Australian writer/director David Michôd's first film, crime drama Animal Kingdom, was such a remarkable debut that the three-year wait for his follow-up has felt cruelly elongated. Whether or not The Rover has been worth that wait depends largely on your expectations: it's a very different film to Animal Kingdom, but Michôd's deliberate, brooding style and downbeat view of humanity permeate both movies like an unshakeable bad mood.
Typically, Pearce turns in the kind of intense performance that's rightfully earning him a reputation as one of cinema's most exciting talents: driven by a nameless fury for much of the film, Eric is less a person than a pair of eyes through which David Michôd wants us to see our own possible future, and effectively so. Pattinson, meanwhile, steps even further away from the sparkling vampire that made his name with an assured portrayal here. Rey is vulnerable and naive but has the upper hand in Eric's search for his car, and Pattinson comfortably carries off the complexity of the role; only in his somewhat excessive array of nervous twitches and tics does he ever look like he's actually acting.
The Rover won't be to everyone's tastes: it's a bold and subversive film that requires investment and more than a little patience from the viewer. But its message, however bleak, is an important one told with a fascinating directorial voice, and the film intrigues enough to leave us hungry for Michôd's next.
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