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The Rover (2014)
Blu-ray Disc Released: 9/30/2014
All Ratings out of
Review by Mike Long, Posted on 9/30/2014
WhenMad Max came out in 1979, I'm sure that it had its admirers. As the film's legend grew and the subsequent sequel The Road Warrior was released, I feel certain that the fan's admiration for Mad Max grew. And, it wouldn't be difficult to convince me that there were those who said, "I love Mad Max." But, did they really love Mad Max? I don't know, but I can tell you someone who clearly does love Mad Max. That would be Australian filmmaker David Michod. His latest film, The Rover, is clearly a love-letter to George Miller's action classic.
The Rover takes place in Australia, "Ten years after the collapse". Eric (Guy Pearce) is driving through a nearly-barren wasteland, his destination unknown. When he stops for supplies, a group of armed men lead by Henry (Scott McNairy) abandon their vehicle and take off in Eric's car. Eric steals a truck and gives chase. The men ambush him and leave him for dead. When Eric comes to, he find's Rey (Robert Pattinson), an odd young man who states that he is Henry's brother, and can lead Eric to his car. Thus, this strange pair begin a trip across the lonely desert roads, spreading violence as Eric attempts to retrieve his vehicle.
I'm not the only one who sees the Mad Max connection, right? (Although, it can be argued that the film owes a huge debt to The Road Warrior as well.) Let's take a closer look. The story takes place in a desolate part of Australia where lawlessness abounds, food and fuel are scarce, and it's every man for himself. Like Max, Eric is a man of few words who have no interest in making friends or truly helping others, he simply wants his car back. He's forced to not only work with someone, but a person who has some sort of learning disability and won't stop talking. Michod brings us some car chase scenes which certainly don't rival George Miller's work, but the cars hurtling down the Australian highways has a familiar feel.
Not only is The Rover a giant homage to Mad Max, but Michod is also trying to set some sort of record for minimalism in an action-drama film as well. Save for an anecdote which Rey tells, we get very little information on the characters here. We learn next to nothing about Eric and it's clear that he hates interacting with others. Also, it's not until the end that we learn why Eric was so desperate to get his car back. "The Collapse" is never explained and other than some police which are encountered, it's impossible to tell if any sort of government is still in place. The movie exists solely to show Eric on his quest.
The result is a movie extremes which doesn't quite work. Kudos to Michod for two things. First of all, for taking a chance and making a movie this hyper-focused. While many action movies are high-concept pieces which want to add too much plot (I'm looking at you,Transformers.), The Rover is shorn down to the bare bones. Secondly, the violence here is very effective. From the outset, we get the feeling that Eric is a very determined man, but when he commits his first murder, it's quiet shocking and unexpected. This is followed by several more surprise deaths. Michod doesn't pull any punches with the gunplay here and we often don't see it coming. Pearce (who does an interesting job moving between indy and big-budget movies) is very good here, as he lets his menacing stare do all of the work. Pattinson is very impressive as Rey, and he loses himself in the part, highlighting the character's affectations through head movements and an odd voice.
However, the film's minimalism also makes it difficult to enjoy and the pacing feels slack as we watch Eric and Rey drive down yet another dusty road. This lack of variety hurts the film and Michod takes a big chance with the ending, which will touch some viewers and leave most very angry. In a world of glossy, slick films where even the supposedly down-trodden characters look beautiful, The Rover is an interesting experiment. It's simply too low key for its own good.
The Rover certainly doesn't contain any of the cool cars featured in Mad Max on Blu-ray Disc courtesy of Lionsgate. The film has been letterboxed at 2.35:1 and the Disc contains an AVC 1080p HD transfer which runs at an average of 21 Mbps. The image is sharp and clear, showing no overt grain and no defects from the source materials. The bulk of the film takes place against the very beige backdrop of the desert-like environment, which means that we are fortunate that there isn't a sea of grain on the image and that we don't get many bold colors here. The picture is never overly dark or bright. The level of detail is good and the depth is impressive, as it gives us a sense of how large and open the area is. The Disc carries a DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 track which runs at 48 kHz and an average of 3.5 Mbps. The track provides clear dialogue and sound effects. The stereo effects are notable, especially those which illustrate the cars passing by. The surround effects are also effective, most notably from the desert wind and gunshots. The sounds of the cars engines involves the subwoofer.
The Rover Blu-ray Disc contains only one extra feature. "Something Elemental: Making The Rover" (45 minutes) is an in-depth, three-part featurette which examines the creation and the shooting of the film. The piece offers a wealth of on-set footage, some of which shows key scenes being shot. We hear from Michod and other members of the creative team, as well as the cast. We get a good sense of the challenge of shooting in such a barren place.
Review Copyright 2014 by Mike Long