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Australia, a decade after the world has fallen apart due to a global economic collapse. While relaxing in a bar, Eric's (Pearce) car is stolen by three men fleeing a botched robbery. Eric follows the men but is knocked out upon confronting them, awaking several hours later. Returning to town, he happens upon Rey (Pattinson), the mentally challenged younger brother of one of the thieves, and demands he lead him to the gang's hiding place.

One of the few untouched areas of the developed world, the Australian outback may be desolate, but it's proved fertile ground for film-makers in need of a post-apocalyptic landscape. We've seen sci-fi movies like Dead End Dive-In and the Mad Max series make effective use of it, but even contemporary set dramas like Wake in Fright, Long Weekend and Picnic at Hanging Rock give the impression of a part of the world where humanity doesn't belong, a terrain that will remain unchanged long after the human race has left this rock we currently call home.

Director David Michod, who impressed critics with his 2010 debut Animal Kingdom, extracts great production value from his dusty, scorched setting, a topography that's suitably bleak for one of the darkest portrayals of humanity we've seen in some time. A scathing attack on capitalism and materialism, Michod's sophomore effort paints a world where nothing has value anymore, yet currency is still in demand. Guns, food and fuel are the most sought after products, survival the motivation of the day.

Thanks to its bleak outlook, it takes a while to adjust your sensibilities to appreciate this world. Pearce and Pattinson play characters without morals, executing those who get in their way with the ease most of us swat flies. Pattinson's Rey is mentally challenged, but Pearce's Eric has no such excuse. Just what is it about his car that makes him go to such violent extremes in his quest to retrieve it? Is it his last connection to a lost world of material possessions, or is there an item in the car he's desperate to reclaim? Michod keeps us guessing right up to an unforeseen final reveal.

Much has been said about Pattinson's performance, but I'm not sure he thoroughly deserves the plaudits he's received. It's certainly a departure from his star-making pasty faced pretty boy vampire turn in the Twilight series, but it's a highly mannered piece of acting that comes off like an impersonation of Billy Bob Thornton's turn in Slingblade. It's also jarring that his accent sounds nothing like that of his brother, played by McNairy. Pearce, on the other hand, delivers a wholly naturalistic, subtle performance, confirming his status as one the most under-rated actors of his generation.

Review by Eric Hillis

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