David Michôd’s The Rover is so good why did the thriller get a midnight screening at the Cannes Film Festival rather than a slot in official competition?

The Los Angeles Times’ Kenneth Turan posed that question in his review, one of many raves from the critics in Cannes.

The consensus is that Michôd’s follow-up to Animal Kingdom is superbly crafted, brilliantly acted, bleak, brutal and intense. Pundits say it should appeal to specialty audiences in the US, where it will open on June 13 via A24 Films. Roadshow will release the film starring Guy Pearce and Robert Pattinson here on June 12.

Produced by Liz Watts and David Linde and set 10 years after global economic collapse, it features Pearce as a man ferociously determined to get his stolen car back and Pattinson as someone dragged along in his wake.

“Unaccountably slotted for the midnight section of the festival rather than the main competition, The Rover is a most impressive piece of filmmaking, tense and unrelenting, that chills the blood as well as the soul," Turan wrote.

“Pearce is fiercely impressive here as a man who gave up on the human race even before the latest round of calamities, and if there are occasional glimpses of the kinder, gentler man he might once have been, we are more frequently privy to his savage survival instincts. But it’s Pattinson who turns out to be the film’s greatest surprise, sporting a convincing Southern accent and bringing an understated dignity to a role that might easily have been milked for cheap sentimental effects.”

The Hollywood Reporter’s Todd McCarthy described the film as an intense and bloody thriller which should find “a responsive audience in specialized play” in the US. He did find fault with what he termed as “numerous dramatic implausibilities.”

IndieWire's Jessica Kiang praised the director for “taking the epic, sweeping backdrop of a post-apocalyptic, dusty Australian desert, and turning in a tiny two-hander road movie that is as Spartan as its predecessor was operatic.”

She continued, “The Rover… is a fascinating movie, flawed but occasionally brilliant, and it’s also not at all the film we were expecting. Bleak, brutal and unrelentingly nihilist, and with only sporadic flashes of the blackest, most mordant humor to lighten the load, it feels parched, like the story has simply boiled away in the desert heat and all that’s left are its desiccated bones. In a good way.”

Variety’s Scott Foundas declared, “Tipping its hat to George Miller’s Mad Max trilogy while striking a more sombre, introspective tone, Michôd’s sophomore feature isn’t exactly something we’ve never seen before, but it has a desolate beauty all its own, and a career-redefining performance by Robert Pattinson that reveals untold depths of sensitivity and feeling in the erstwhile Twilight star.

“A commercial challenge due to its mix of explicit violence, measured pacing and narrative abstractions, the pic should earn the warm embrace of discerning genre fans and further establish Michôd as one of the most gifted young directors around.”

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