"The Rover" takes place in what has by now become a familiar cinematic universe: the ruined, post-apocalyptic landscape of a once-great civilization.

In this case, it's Australia, specifically the Outback, some 10 years after "the collapse."

The new film from writer-director David Michôd ("Animal Kingdom") finds a broken man named Eric (Guy Pearce) drifting through this surreal milieu of dust and decay, on a single-minded search for the criminals who stole his car.

It's violent and uncompromising, filled with sudden brutality and populated by strange individuals whose morality has crumbled alongside society as a whole.

The performances by Pearce and Robert Pattinson, as the brother of one of the car-stealing perps, are fully engaged with the single-minded spirit, as all but the most animalistic elements of their personalities have been purposefully stripped away.

The film is fascinating at times, as would be any picture that is so meticulously assembled that every bit of detritus seems to have been composed with concrete thematic purpose.

It's also heavily on the ponderous side, so spare and stripped to its essential elements that there is ultimately a lack of active engagement in the events at hand.

Michôd takes things incredibly seriously but he hasn't come up with a premise that warrants the approach, or one that is even capable of fully sustaining a feature. There's no question this is the movie he wanted to make, but it still leaves you wanting more.

 

Directed by David Michôd | Starring Guy Pearce, Robert Pattinson | Rated R | Playing at Lincoln Square, Sunshine