Rogue

Rogue

 

I recently saw Rogue.  Don’t get all happy, you silly X-men fanboy.  This Rogue isn’t Anna Paquin in a skin tight black leather suit dealing out comic book quality mayhem.  Hmm . . .  and jumping.  And high kicking . . .  Anna Paquin . . .   Skin tight black leather suit . . .  I’ll be right back.

Okay.  I’m back.  Where was I? Oh, yeah, Rogue.  So, as I was saying this is not another lame X-Men movie, this is an entirely different kind of rogue,  a scaly kind of rogue.  A big, nasty, scary rogue that eats clueless tourists by the boat-load because it is giant crocodile kind of rogue.  In my book a  giant crocodile is almost as good as Anna Panquin in a skin tight black leather suit– almost.

 

The film opens with Pete McKell (Michael Vartan) arriving in lovely Devil’s Bunghole, the jewel of Australia’s Northern Territory,  for the famous boat ride through the stunning fly infested swamps that make Devil’s Bunghole a world renowned tourist destination.  We learn that Pete McKell is a travel writer who usually confines his subject matter to hotels and resorts, but has apparently taken this little out of the way wildlife adventure in an attempt to pad his prose or something for an upcoming article.

Within moments of arriving, Pete McKell goes all “Ugly American” on the locals, ensuring that I will dislike him for the rest of this movie.  Sipping the worst of tea in Australia, McKell finds his way to the dock where the cheerful Kate Ryan (Radha Mitchell), owner and proprietor of Ryan’s Wildlife River Cruise, launches her excursions.

As the tourists board the boat, handing over their tickets to Kate, we get to meet each of the characters: Fussy Yuppie Woman and her Suffering Husband, Dying Woman and Caring Husband with their daughter Tween Girl, Chubby Chipper Single Lady,  Annoying Photographer, and Mourning Widower and his wife Urn of Ashes.  Shortly after the boat launches, Ryan gives her little spiel about the heat, flies and wildlife, during which we get to know the characters a little better before being introduced to a couple of local dirtbags.   This is all done with a fairly light hand and some economy.  We don’t need their life stories because we  know that some, perhaps all of them, will not be coming back.

At the end of the tour, as they are about to turn back, Suffering Husband sees an emergency flare in the distance and informs the others.  Ryan tries to make radio contact with both the boat and base,  to no avail, before announcing that they will have to extend the tour and investigate.  As the boat chugs on, we are treated to some lovely nature footage and subtly ominous music.  Soon our party makes its way to an inlet where they find the remains of another boat.  Crocodile mayhem ensues.  Yes!

As a kid, I watched a lot of disaster movies with my mom.  We made a game of picking out who would die and how.  For example, choose which character will betray the others in order to save his own skin, but ironically doom himself or which one is the jerk who we will hate for the first half of the movie, but eventually redeems himself by sacrificing himself to save the rest and so forth.  We got quite good.  I wasn’t able to do this successfully during the “meet the meat” scene of Rogue to the story’s credit.

At this point we are now about a third of the way through the movie. It doesn’t feel like it.  Hopping among all the little developing subplots with our characters, the slowly building tension and the lovely scenery, we just breeze right though the first 30 minutes.  I’ll skip the rest of the plot.  Either you’re into rampages by insanely large crocodiles or your not.  If you are into it, then I don’t want to spoil it for you.   There will be surprises.

My biggest concern with the movie wasn’t the character development.  I am not here for Hamlet.   I am here to see a scary, freakishly large crocodile eat people.   So, my biggest concern was about how the monster crocodile would look.  I’m here to tell you that it looks really good.  You can tell it’s not real, but it looks good enough so that only a modicum of suspension of disbelief is required to make it work, as opposed to the totally shoddy CGI used in “Sci-Fi* Originals” here in the States.

The cast does well.  They look and act like tourists.  Nobody gives really standout performance, but that’s okay.  Rogue isn’t that kind of movie.  T he mission that the actors have is to bring their characters to life and not chew the scenery or get in the way.  It may sound like I’m slighting actors a bit.  I’m not.  The focus is on the fear, not the characters.

One other common failing I see in a lot of movies like this is that the characters do things that are truly stupid.  I’m okay with stupid.  People are stupid.  What I’m not okay with is when people do stupid things that are out of character.  I often see that in movies.  Sure, a few of the characters in Rogue end up making poor choices, but they are choices that in context, the character would have made.

Everything is in place.  We have a great location.  We have a group of believable characters in peril.  We have a monstrous and good-looking beastie.  All writer/ director Greg Mclean has to do at this point is to bring it on home without screwing it up.  McLean does this by sticking broadly to the formula of the genre, tweaking here and there to keep the whole thing fresh and interesting.  He doesn’t have the characters go out of character.  It would have been rather tempting to let McKell, for example, go into Bruce Campbell mode.  McLean doesn’t do that.  He keeps everything reigned in nice and tight.  Another direction Rogue doesn’t take is to go down the extreme over-exposure route, showing too much blood and gore or too much of the monster.   Rogue is a bit like Jaws in that respect.  You see just enough to build tension,  the movie waits to give it all up at the very end.  Happy Ending.

You go into a movie about a giant crocodile with certain expectations.  Rogue met all mine.

Starring:
Radha Mitchell
Michael Vartan
Sam Worthington
Caroline Brazier
Stephen Curry
Celia Ireland
John Jarratt

Screenplay:
Greg McLean

Director:
Greg McLean

Three and a half Vincents out of five

* I refuse to call them “SyFy” because that re-brand  is incredibly lame.

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