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Review: 'The Rover' quests for post-apocalyptic morality

| Thursday, June 19, 2014, 8:55 p.m.

“The Rover” is a nasty little movie with a mean streak. That's not entirely a bad thing.

David Michod's film, about a man trying to retrieve his stolen car in a post-not-quite-apocalyptic Australian Outback, is an intriguing character study. You might call it a morality play, if there were any morality to speak of at play.

The film centers on Guy Pearce as Eric, the man in search of his car, and Robert Pattinson as Rey, the simpleton brother of one of the car thieves who accompanies Eric on his quest.

Their portrayals are interesting at the least, often something more, and you have to credit Michod for going full-bore with the dystopian savagery. This is not a world you want to live in.

The movie begins “10 years after the Collapse” (no further explanation is offered), with Eric, stoic, walking into some sort of seedy barlike dump. As he drinks, we see in the window behind him a pickup filled with three criminals flip and crash behind him.

The three men, led by Henry (Scoot McNairy), jump in the first car they find and take off. This turns out to be Eric's car, and for reasons that will not be clear for a while, he goes after them — in their car, which turns out to be drivable. They get away for a time, but Eric is relentless and, as a few shocking actions illustrate, willing to go to any length to find them.

Along the way, he runs into Rey (Pattinson), Henry's brother, gut shot and left for dead. Eric offers Rey his take on things: “Your brother doesn't care about you, no one cares about anyone, help me find them.”

Rey, with little choice, goes along. Pattinson plays the character with a thick-as-kudzu Southern accent, like he is Gomer Pyle's less-intelligent cousin (Goober was smarter). But, like many characters of this type, he may be deeper than his talk and actions suggest.

Michod's patience with scenes, while laudable, is, at times, too much. Long stretches pass with little happening.

It's not exactly an uplifting film. But stick with it, admire the performances, and “The Rover” is worth your while in the end.

Bill Goodykoontz is the chief film critic for Gannett News Service.

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