After derailing her movie career in 2009 by publicly dissing director Michael Bay, Megan Fox (the TRANSFORMERS franchise), is back as the team leader of a squad of jolly mercenaries who are called in to extract the daughter of a powerful government official of an unnamed African country who has been kidnapped by a group of poachers aligned with al-Shabaab. Their mission goes terribly wrong when the poachers prove to be formidable adversaries, pinning Sam (Fox) and her group down at an abandoned farm. Neither side, though, is a match for a rogue lion that has its own score to settle and doesn’t care whose side anyone is on.
There is so much that’s bad about ROGUE that it’s hard to know where to begin. I’ll start with the story, which was written by director M.J. Bassett (SOLOMON KANE) along with her daughter, Isabel, who performs double duty as one of the young women rescued by Sam & Co. ROGUE begins with a scene about lion farms, and the audience is led to believe that the mercenaries were called in by someone to bust the poachers. That notion is quickly dispelled, though, when we learn that the bad guys are not only religious zealots, their main business is human trafficking… until it’s not. Their real business is kidnapping and their quarry is the daughter of a White governor whose own activities may be less than holy. (That story arc is only hinted at but never explored.) The other girls they kidnapped are just collateral damage. But let’s back up a second. What African country has a White governor these days? Then Bassett ignores everything that happens in the film and puts up an end card that informs audiences how horrible poaching is. So is this a social action film or a political film? One gets the sense that it may have started out as a social action film but successive rewrites turned it into something else.
Then there’s the al-Shabaab side plot that has nothing to do with anything. One of the mercenaries, Pata (South African actor Sisanda Henna), is an ex-member of al-Shabaab who has his own issues, we learn, with the religious militant group. The problem is that the actor has a Hebrew tattoo scrawled very nicely, I must say, across his deltoid. (It says “Yehoshua”, which means “Joshua” or “G-d is salvation”, in case you’re interested.) This is what post-production is for. It should have been zapped out by the editor! But that sloppy gaffe pales in comparison to the laughable CGI lion that looks as dangerous as an off-brand stuffed toy. I can appreciate that this film doesn’t have the same budget that a Pixar or Disney film may have but this is pure amateur hour.
The film does have one saving grace though. Bassett wisely recruited his SOLOMON KANE buddy Philip Winchester (TV’s STRIKE BACK, the LAW & ORDER/CHICAGO P.D. TV franchise) to be the film’s comic relief. He is not just the best thing about ROGUE, he’s the only good thing. Winchester needs to star in his own action-comedy film.
If you’re looking to watch a movie about a bunch of mercenaries who rescue a privileged teenager, go for EXTRACTION. It’s not a great film either but it’s better than ROGUE. This one is dog meat. The film has been out on PVOD, DVD and Blu-ray for a month now and has yet to break through the US$1 million mark in sales. That should tell you something. If anything, it says that Megan Fox still has a ways to go before she can be considered a box office draw again.
ROGUE opens on Thursday (October 1) in Hong Kong. Save your money.
Watch the review recorded on Facebook Live on Friday, October 2nd, 8:30 am HK time!
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