THE ROVER (David Michôd). 102 minutes. Opens Friday (June 20). For venues and times, see listings. Rating: NN
David Michôd's follow-up to his Oscar-nominated Aussie outlaw pic, Animal Kingdom, is another crime film about double-crossed family members. But without the scenery-chewing of Jacki Weaver, it's less gripping, and you may find your attention roving over the sunbaked Australian outback.
It's 10 years after an economic collapse, and the exhausted Eric (Guy Pearce) is drinking in a bar when his car is stolen by a group of robbers who've fled a crime scene. Eric pursues them with a demented, single-minded fury, and when he meets Rey (Robert Pattinson), one of the robbers' brothers left for dead at the crime scene, he finds out where they may be hiding.
Lots of questions bubble beneath the surface. What happened to the economy? (There are some mildly xenophobic clues about Chinese takeovers.) Why does Eric want his car back? Is something hidden in it? And why was Pattinson, a Brit, cast as a mumbling, mentally challenged American Southerner with bad teeth?
The shootout scenes are well staged, some haunting sequences suggest the chaos of the new economy, and you can sense Michôd reaching for some statement about guilt and loyalty.
But mostly the film consists of Pearce squinting menacingly, and that's not enough to hold it together.