Australia was founded as a repository for crooks and criminals — a wretched hive of scum and villainy, like the British Empire’s own Mos Eisley. Of course, that was a long time ago and the Australian national demeanor has since shifted from “kill or be killed” to “live and let live,” but David Michôd’s gritty 2010 drama Animal Kingdom chronicled some of the country’s more modern criminal descendents. In his upcoming sophomore effort, The Rover, the director takes things even further.
Robert Pattinson plays a denizen of the Outback in the near future, after a worldwide financial collapse has sent many like him running to the still viable mines of the Australian desert. “It’s like a new gold rush,” says Michôd. “Where people from all corners of the world have come out to the desert to scrape out an existence. Petty criminals and miscreants and hustlers.” Guy Pearce, who had an uncharacteristically reserved role in Animal Kingdom, gets to sink his teeth into a nicely nasty part opposite Pattinson. “The basic story is really quite elemental,” says Michôd. “You’ve got a really dark, dangerous, murderous person in Guy’s character, and in Rob’s character you have a quite troubled and damaged, but beautiful and naïve, soul.”
Of course, just by its setting and basic plot, The Rover is poised to draw comparisons to one of the antipodean country’s most memorable cinematic contributions. “You put cars in the desert in Australia and people are going to think of Mad Max,” says Michôd. “And with all due respect to that film — and I stress that — I think The Rover is going to be way more chillingly authentic and menacing.”