Review: ROGUE

Posted by Peter Hall - July 13th 2008 @ 3:53 pm

Written and Directed by Greg Mclean, 2007

Giant crocodile movies are a dime a dozen and for a simple reason; they’re easy.  The nature of the animal covers the majority of elements for you.  It can go on land and can vanish in the water.  Long rows of jagged teeth, scaly skin and a realistic reputation for larger than life sizes lets filmmakers get away with stretching the beast a few more giant feet.  Regardless of what your standards are, those elements are hard to fudge beyond redemption.

ROGUE is, as laws of probability would suspect, no exception.  Set in the beautiful riverscape of outback Australia, Greg Mclean sets his chompers on a tour boat filled with folk.  Boat captain Radha Mitchell takes a detour towards a distress flare when the giant reptile in question rams the boat, flooding it in the process.  Cappin’ takes emergency action and docks the boat on a dockless bit of island at the river’s bend.  It isn’t too long before one of the customers disappears off the island, which just so happens to be on a tidal river.  In due time night will fall, the tide will rise and the terra firma separating them from the inky black will disappear.

I wasn’t the biggest fan of Mclean’s debut WOLF CREEK, so the varying degrees of success found in ROGUE bode well for the lad.  The success, or lack there of, external to ROGUE, however, does not bode well.  Released theatrically in its home land in ’07, the creature feature is already on retail shelves in various territories around the world, but the stateside handling by the dreaded Weinstein Company has been strained at best.  It isn’t the best movie ever – not even the best crocodile movie made in Australia in 2007 – but I can’t imagine it being any less commercially viable than, say, PRIMEVAL.  Why the Weinsteins held it back is a mystery.  I’m sure with a marketing push it could have turned a quick buck.  People certainly pay for worse.

Performances all around are solid.  Michael Vartan isn’t normally the most engaging face on the block, but his is a nice anchor here.  The personal interest between his character and that of Radha Mitchell’s is enough to provide motivations when needed, thankfully never tipping into easy melodrama lovers-by-disaster baloney.  The other human morsels on the tour give nice performances, as well.  Despite all of the characters (Vartan included) being fleshed out to a minimum, Mclean does a good job of mixing up who is chomped and when.

The script’s dilemma (croc + people + island + tide) provides for more than a few thrilling, well planned sequences.  There is much more going on than just blokes trying to stay away from the water’s edge, so give Mclean some credit there.  However, ROGUE has a few technical problems.  The flick is shot on digital.  Poorly.  The landscape is beautiful, but the lack of depth of focus inherent to digital uglies things up a bit.  I’m never a fan of a film that looks like I could have shot it, which unfortunately many of his daylight sequences reek of.  More wounding, however, is the cheap look digital gives everything.  The croc at times is clearly a real prosthetic, but it looks cheaper than it is thanks to the Best Buy look of the overall production.  Plus, the moments of pure CGI-chomping look, well, pure CGI.

Still, Mclean has a simple premise and runs with it, that’s about all one should expect from a giant crocodile movie.  On the one hand, most of its conflicts and set pieces are superior to its brethern.  On the other, ROGUE often looks and sounds only mariginally better than the best Saturday night Sci-Fi premiere; which is not a bitter condemnation.  It is far more tolerable than any number of toothy big animal killers, twice as fun as most, I’d wager, but against his better efforts, director Mclean often has a hard time proving it to more discerning eyes.  Still, with reservations it works.  Leagues better than WOLF CREEK, at least.

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