Ten years after the civilized world bites the dust, making way instead for a criminal wasteland run on greed, violence, sex trafficking, and any number of other unthinkable vices, we meet a man who just wants to take back what was stolen from him. The terrific thing about The Rover is its simplicity. The vast contrivances of its post-apocalyptic world and the dozens of questions that arise as a result of its many mysteries aside, the film never strays from its focus on the bones of grisly Guy Pearce, a man on a mission who just happens to live on a surreal new version of the planet Earth.
Pearce chauffers the audience through the nooks and cranies of a tattered Australian outback, giving us a look at the dingy yet colorful customs of the dark era while sticking with promise to his revenge-and-retrieval journey. The script doesn't give Pearce a lot of breathing room, resigning the hot-heated, closed-mouthed character to his mission without much room for exploration. While we celebrate the simplicity of his quest, the simplicity of Pearce's character - and more importantly, his performance - does keep from instilling The Rover with the nuance that would afford it true flavor.
Beside him is Robert Pattinson, playing a young man of questionable mental capacity, roped along for the ride thanks to his tenuous knowledge of where Pearce's desired possession has been taken. Pattinson impresses as the far more vibrant of the duo, his performance abetted by the stark contrast to anything we've seen of him to date - even the stellar Cosmopolis kept the actor moreover subdued. But here, he's given free range to be vulnerable, menacing, and funny.
Ultimately, Rover delivers on everything it offers up, but nonetheless lands short of what feels like a complete and compelling feature. Though the brevity of its intent is one of its strengths, you almost wonder if the story wouldn't have been better served as a short film instead. But we aren't likely to see Robert Pattinson break free from routine in a short film, so I guess that's reason alone for the 102-minute runtime.