'Rover' Blends Quiet Character Moments Amid Societal Collapse

The Rover is a bleak film set in a very particular future. It's 10 years after a world-wide economic collapse, and the Australian outback is populated by unhinged people exhausted by heat and despair.

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RENEE MONTAGNE, HOST:

The Australian director David Michod may not be a familiar name. But his debut film "Animal Kingdom" was one of 2010 great critical successes. Los Angeles Times and MORNING EDITION film critic Kenneth Turan says Michod's second film, "The Rover," confirms this director's impressive talent.

KENNETH TURAN: "The Rover" is a spare, uncompromisingly bleak film set in a very particular future. It's 10 years after a worldwide economic collapse, and the Australian outback is populated by unhinged people, exhausted by heat and despair. And then Eric shows up. Eric is a bearded, sweaty, sun-burnt man - a fierce-eyed individual whose thousand-yard stare could solidify molten lava. As played by Guy Pearce in a performance of pure, controlled ferocity, Eric is the last person whose car you want to steal. But that's just what a gang of thieves does in "The Rover's" opening minutes. Eric questions everyone he meets, repeating - I'm looking for my car - in a quiet monotone. Eric catches a break when he comes across the gang-leader's seriously wounded brother. The only man who can help him find his car.

(SOUNDBITE OF FILM, "THE ROVER")

GUY PEARCE: (As Eric) Where's your brother? Where is he? You tell me where he is, or I'm going to kill you. Where is he?

TURAN: That wounded brother is convincingly played by Robert Pattison in a role that is as far from the "Twilight" series as he could possibly get. The brother is damaged, twitchy, unfocused - a lost soul in a pitiless world, and Eric focuses on getting him to tell what he knows.

(SOUNDBITE OF FILM, "THE ROVER")

PEARCE: (As Eric) Anything that means anything right now is that I'm here and he's not. Your brother left you to die. That's what people do.

TURAN: There is nothing noble about Eric's quest or about all the violence he resorts to to get the job done. But Pearce's ability to give Eric an integrity of purpose mixes well with David Michod's controlled direction, blending quiet character moments with all the killing. This combination of genre-plotting and art-house sensibility guarantees that "The Rover" will put you away.

MONTAGNE: Kenneth Turan reviews movies for MORNING EDITION and the LA Times.

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