The Rover

June 20, 2014 by  
Filed under Kiko, Reviews

Starring: Guy Pearce, Robert Pattinson, Scoot McNairy
Directed by: David Michod (“Animal Kingdom”)
Written by: David Michod (“Animal Kingdom”)

It’s been four years since writer/director David Michod materialized out of thin air to deliver his ambitious and expertly paced crime thriller “Animal Kingdom,” which follows a dysfunctional Melbourne family and their internal fight with loyalty when one of their own is murdered. Michod turns up the heat a few degrees, but still keeps it to a slow burn with his newest film “The Rover,” an aggressive post-apocalyptic drama set in the grimy Australian Outback that plays like a tale of revenge although our antihero’s motives are not defined until the very end.

In “The Rover,” actor Guy Pearce (“Memento”) stars as Eric, a thick-skinned loner traveling through an Australian wasteland. When his car, the only possession he seems to have besides the sweaty shirt on his back, is stolen by a trio of thieves, Eric makes it his mission to track them down and retrieve what is his. At the start of his pursuit, he meets Rey (Robert Pattinson, in what is easily the best performance of his career thus far), the simpleminded brother of one of the car thieves, who forms an unusual bond with Eric and decides he will help him find his vehicle.

Stylistically, Michod does some impressive work with the look and feel of a dried-up Australian Outback devoid of any reason for its inhabitants to live. We’re not talking about the same kind of misery in something like director John Hillcoat’s “The Road,” but Michod’s trek through the dusty countryside would probably still make any man go mad. We see that here with Eric, a hardened soul willing to do anything he can to get back what is rightfully his. Pearce’s anger is palpable, which balances effectively with Pattinson’s weak-minded nature and an almost strange need to feel accepted by Eric. In a way, it feels like the relationship between George and Lenny in author John Steinbeck’s classic novel “Of Mice and Men” from a character perspective. Both need each other in their lives for completely different reasons.

“The Rover,” however, is much more callous and bleak in its delivery. The sense of hopelessness throughout the film is suffocating and Pearce’s performance doesn’t let up for a second. As the more subdued Rey, Pattinson sheds the outer sparkle tweens flocked to in the “Twilight” series and proves he can do some fine work when a role is as rich as this. The ending might not hit as hard as Michod would like, but “The Rover” has an unapologetic mean streak that can’t be ignored.

Animal Kingdom

September 17, 2010 by  
Filed under Reviews

Starring: James Frecheville, Ben Mendelsohn, Guy Pierce
Directed by: David Michod (“Solo”)
Written by: David Michod (debut)

When Joshua “J” Cody (James Frecheville) finds himself alone after the death of his mother, there’s nowhere to go except into the welcoming arms of his estranged family, a collection of shady criminals his mom always tried to keep him away from but can’t any longer.

In “Animal Kingdom,” the Sundance Film Festival winner for Best Film in the World Dramatic category this past January, J must learn to acclimate to his new surroundings and become part of his inherited tribe. The metaphorical title is obvious. If J wants to survive, he has to match the uncompromising lifestyle of his three miscreant uncles (Ben Mendelsohn, Luke Ford, and Sullivan Stapleton) and his grandmother (Jaci Weaver) who plays the disturbing matriarch of the family who will do anything for her boys.

But despite his difficult upbringing by a heroin-addicted mother, J doesn’t necessarily want to be a part of the illicit family business. The tight grip his uncle Pope (Mendelsohn) has on the family, however, is too much to bear at times. With J exposed to all the drug-related dealings happening under his roof, it’s almost impossible not to get reeled into the criminal activity whether he wants to or not.

There to help J possibly escape the confines of his home life is Leckie (Guy Pierce), a concerned Melbourne detective who sees there is a slight chance to save J from a life he never intended to be a part of. Knowing this really is his only way out of his circumstance, it’s fascinating to watch J function on fear while keeping as emotionally distant as he can from the family who is slowly suffocating him.

Directed and written by David Michod, “Animal Kingdom” is an unnerving thriller that paces itself like a minimalist film, but pulsates with a gritty darkness. The performances, especially from Weaver, who gives a new face to evil mothers, are skillfully mastered as is Michod’s searing screenplay that takes the term “dysfunctional family” to an entirely new level.