When a scruffy Australian bloke goes into a shabby, karaoke bar in the desolate Outback, his Peugeot sedan is stolen. After that, it's all angry pursuit and relentless revenge.
Sometime in the near future, 10 years after a worldwide economic collapse, Eric (Guy Pearce), a peripatetic former farmer/soldier, is determined to retrieve his dust-covered vehicle. Repeating, "I want my car back," he takes off in the damaged truck that belonged to the gang of thieving hoodlums, headed by Henry (Scoot McNairy), a vicious American. Along the way, he encounters an eccentric grandma (Gillian Jones) and saves the life of Henry's badly wounded younger brother, Rey (Robert Pattinson), a sensitive dimwit, by taking him to a compassionate doctor (Susan Piror) after the desperados left him for dead on the side of the road after a gun battle. Babbling, moronic Rey then becomes stoic Eric's traveling companion/hostage on his arduous quest.
Sketchily scripted by actor/writer Joel Edgerton and writer/director/producer David Michod ("Animal Kingdom"), it unfolds like an edgy, wannabe "Mad Max"/"Road Warrior," as Argentine cinematographer Natasha Braier ("The Milk of Sorrow") captures the sun-bleached, post-apocalyptic desolation of southern Australia's Flinders Ranges. According to the press notes, David Michod was inspired by the anarchic upheaval in Sierra Leone, Nigeria, Guinea and the Democratic Republic of Congo and envisioned this as a contemporary geopolitical parable, using the essential elements of the traditional American Western. Michod also cites what he believes is the inevitable downfall of Europe and the United States because of their greed, which will coincide with the rise of Asia, along with Australia, as resource-rich third-world powers.
With a career that includes playing a drag queen in "The Adventures of Priscilla, Queen of the Desert," righteous cop in "L.A. Confidential," amnesia victim in "Memento" and villain in "Iron Man 3," Melbourne-based Pearce's unpredictable versatility never ceases to amaze, while Pattinson sheds all traces of his "Twilight" mystique.
On the Granger Movie Gauge of 1 to 10, "The Rover" is a somber, sinister, grimly sparse 6, filled with pointless bloodshed and explicit violence.