Monday, June 16, 2014

Ask Me a Question: The Rover

In a bit of summer time counter programming, it was time for Australian semi-post apocalyptic, revenge thriller western The Rover at The Arclight in Hollywood.  Writer/director David Michod was scheduled for Q&A afterwards and late in the day it was announced co-star Robert Pattinson would also be joining for a chat to hype up the limited release.  Michod had previously given audiences the low key yet engrossing family crime saga Animal Kingdom in 2010.  The Rover starts off by telling us it's been 10 years since The Collapse.  Then we cut to the arid desert of Australia where we find Guy Pearce's Eric sitting alone in his dusty car before he enters a near empty, makeshift bar playing some kind of Asian music.  Outside, a trio of criminals flee the scene of their latest job with one bleeding from a gunshot wound.  We hear them arguing over leaving someone behind and in the heat of the moment, a fight breaks out and they go crashing into the side of the road.  Their vehicle temporarily disabled, they hop into Eric's car and drive off.  What follows is a deliberately paced, shockingly violent and well made piece of revenge and redemption cinema if not the most enjoyable or engaging.

On the trail for his car and possessions, Eric comes across Rey, the thought dead 4th bandit and brother to gunshot afflicted Henry (Argo and Killing Them Softly's Scoot McNairy).  Eric takes Rey to get cleaned up and in the process turns him into his prisoner/guide to find big brother.  Dubbed a "half-wit", Pattinson convincingly plays Rey as equal parts dim, cocky and innocent behind fake teeth, mumbling southern accent and a bad fade haircut.  Throughout the film of course their antagonistic relationship turns symbiotic as they come to an understanding and help each other through.  We learn more about Pearce's mysterious Eric through bits and pieces that he was a soldier, formerly married, etc but Michod is smart enough to keep the reason why he's so keen on getting his car back a mystery until the very end.  We're never told exactly what The Collapse entails but there's still businesses open (that only take American cash), cars on the road and guns galore so it's not exactly Mad Max but Michod does an excellent job of setting up the run down, violent world without much explanation. 

Pearce plays Eric as focused yet disheveled with little dialog for vast stretches of the film.  Pattinson does a fine job acting in an unglamorous role and shows he's serious about using that Twilight fame to anchor an actual career.  Being shot in remote Australia gives us plenty of long takes of rocky and desolate landscapes and we can feel the heat and grime through sweaty brows, filthy clothes and flies buzzing about everywhere.  The music and sound are used to great effect, helping to build up tension then break it like when Pattinson sings along to a random pop song in the car out of nowhere.  Similar to fellow Australian film-making like John Hillcoat's The Proposition or Andrew Dominik's Killing Them Softly, The Rover is equal parts quiet, violent, impacting, beautiful and sad.  I can't say The Rover kept my interest the entire duration but at the end it was an experience to watch but not something I could ever imagine viewing again.

After the film, a Q&A hosted by an excited yet kind of goofy critic from Access Hollywood welcomed David Michod and Robert Pattinson.

- After Animal Kingdom, Michod's world was turned upside down.  Endless meetings, reading scripts he knew he'd never direct.
- Channeled professional and personal frustration into The Rover.  Feels that climate change is biggest threat to the planet but no one cares and for first time, the future does not seem very bright.
- Animal Kingdom and Warrior's Joel Edgarton has a Story By credit but there was no mention of his involvement.
- Pattinson had seen a teaser from Animal Kingdom and knew it was something special.  Read The Rover, was blown away by it and signed up.
- Got the look from seeing some white trash type but can't remember how he came up with the accent.  Being on a set of Australians, nobody could tell if it was good or bad.
- Shot in remote parts of Australia where it was 120 degrees and used night vision goggles to star gaze since there wasn't much else to do.
- Music came from various sources and inspirations but Michod cited going down an iTunes rabbit hole for 7 hours and discovering some out there stuff.
- Much was discussed about the film's conclusion, themes and story but I feel those would be spoiler heavy.  It's a simple movie so no need to ruin it here.
- Michod talks about hating to do "action" scenes because he gets 1/3 of the shots he would usually get in a day and it's not about talking to actors, it's just about technical garbage.

Like many of the Q&A's at The Arclight, The Rover's wasn't great.  For some reason, maybe it's because it's The Arclight, but it feels like the energy is sucked out and the moderators are looking for some highfalutin, important discussion on cinema and the state of blah blah blah.  It didn't help that our host had some really poor questions and the audience didn't change course with their mundane queries about favorite scenes to shoot and other crap I can't remember but it just wasn't very memorable.  More than several attendees left before the end and Robert Pattinson made for a borderline horrible guest.  Not that he was rude but he just didn't have much to say and barely looked up the entire time.

Now, that time Tim Allen and Dean Parisot did Q&A, it didn't matter that the moderator was blah, they just riffed without prodding and gave the audience great stories and background on the making of Galaxy Quest.

"By Grabthar's Hammer, by the suns of Warvan, you shall be entertained!"

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