The Rover

The Rover
***1/2

Without the strong arm of the government keeping us in line, life would be “nasty, brutish, and short.”
I don’t know whether Thomas Hobbes was right. He basically accused us of being rowdy, violent beasts who need a powerful paternalistic state to keep us in line.
My experience of living 37 years in America has been completely violence-free. I’ve never been shot at. I’ve never seen anyone pull out a knife to do anything but chop vegetables. I’ve never even been in a fist fight. And I don’t make any special effort to avoid cities or shady neighborhoods.
Based on what I’ve seen with my own eyes, people who don’t ask for trouble can live their lives in peace and harmony with their fellow man.
But that doesn’t prove Thomas Hobbes wrong. Perhaps I owe my lifetime of safety and security to the State. No would-be criminal in America can hope that there won’t be armed cops to arrest him if he hurts me. And no would-be criminal in America can hope that the State – or State prisons – will go away and leave him free to commit acts of mayhem.
What is happening in Iraq and Syria right now seems to underscore Hobbes’s argument. Without a stable regime to keep the masses in line, anarchy and unchecked violence has engulfed the region. I doubt that there are too many people in Baghdad and Damascus who view humanity as fundamentally peaceful.
Writer/director David Michod certainly agrees. “The Rover” is a two hour meditation about how necessary a stable government is for people. And how damaged and desperate people get without it.
Guy Pearce stars as Eric. He’s a haggard man driving through the Australian outback 10 years after the government in Sydney collapsed.
He doesn’t show emotion. He hardly talks. We don’t really know anything about this guy. But we do know that there is something very important in his car. Because when a trio of thieves steals it, Eric takes action.
Eric gets some guns, kidnaps the brother of one of the car thieves (Rey, played by “Twilight”’s Robert Pattinson), and begins tracking his beloved vehicle. Along the way, we slowly learn more about what happened to Australia and what it did to these two unfortunate men.
“The Rover” is kind of a buddy movie. But you won’t mistake Eric and Rey for Jackie Chan and Chris Tucker. Eric and Rey are buddies only to the extent that they silently come to the conclusion that they don’t want to kill each other. That’s about as kind as anyone ever gets in this movie.
At its heart, “The Rover” is a pro-government message movie. It shows us a dystopia in which man turns against man, brother turns against brother, and husband turns against wife. Without laws and legitimate authority holding us in check, the film argues, we will be savage and alone.
I truly don’t know whether the people here in the peaceful West are fundamentally more civilized than the the people of Iraq and Syria. Or whether the United States would become as violent as the Middle East if society collapsed.
“The Rover” makes a pretty convincing argument that the entire human race is fundamentally violent.
Thank goodness for the government and the police. I guess.

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