Review: A CGI lion and Megan Fox prove equally unconvincing in Rogue

Art: Kevin

The latest from Silent Hill: Revelation writer-director M. J. Bassett isn’t another effort based on a video game, but you’d never guess it. Composed of a series of stock missions (Locate the hostages! Escape in your jeep! Locate the power generator!), filled with unconscionably rote teammate banter, and featuring dated graphics and cheapo greenscreen, Rogue feels like a forgotten Sega CD military game that should’ve been left locked in the electronics display case in Salvation Army.

Megan Fox stars as leader of an elite team of mercenaries. It takes Rogue half an hour for one of Fox’s team to question whether she’s competent in her role. By then, the astute viewer will have long before answered absolutely fucking not. It’s a “sexy badass” performance unseen since Barb Wire. It forces one to constantly remind themselves that Megan Fox is actually an actress, not a local model brought in at the last minute.

When we first encounter her, she appears still caked in the makeup from whatever car show she was pulled from. Her dusty ball cap is her big concession in dressing down for covert combat. Fox—gratingly referred to as “Boss” in one of the film’s innumerable tropes—is leading her team into a small African encampment. Human traffickers there have abducted the daughter of a politician, and Boss and her boys are there to rescue her. They end up rescuing another girl too (against Boss’s wishes, because she’s very tough and all business!), but end up with heavy losses and, after the unexpected destruction of their helicopter, no evacuation plan. They do escape the heavily-armed traffickers, but end up in Aliens territory.

See, while the team manages to find an abandoned compound for their own camp, it turns out it too was once home to a nefarious enterprise—this one a Joe Exotic-style lion farm with a more sinister motive. “Why would you farm lions?” Boss asks, standing amid a bevy of lion pelts hanging at eye level. “You can’t eat them.” She’s not the boss for her brains.

As seen in the film’s cold open, one of the lions has managed to escape and slaughter her captors. This lioness has gone rogue, if you will, and it’s an issue for Team Boss. The compound has a radio, but its generator has run out of fuel, and the group can’t seem to locate it. You’d think they could just follow the power line, but for some reason they just wander around looking for it. That’s when Rogue shifts from poor military action flick to even poorer Deep Rising. As the team splits up to search for the generator, they’re one by one bloodily picked off by this lion, building to the inevitable final battle against the human traffickers where you can figure out pretty quick how it’s going to wrap up.

In an interview, Bassett said, “The [Rogue] script turned out better than anybody expected and my financiers were like, ‘We should try to go out to somebody, this is a great part for a woman.’ Megan was on the list. I was like, ‘Well, we’re never going to get Megan Fox, that’s ridiculous.”

If the screenplay indeed turned out better than anyone expected, it’s mind-boggling to imagine how low the bar for this thing was set. The dialogue sounds like idiots trying to roleplay at a paintball range, and the script is filled with first draft placeholder lines that somehow still made it into the production. When was the last time someone said, “What am I, chopped liver?” The answer is, outrageously, at the end of Rogue.

It will take a while, because no one is going to watch or care at all about this movie, but Rogue will likely eventually find its way to Wikipedia’s List of films that most frequently use the word “fuck.” As the laziest, lame-brained assertion of gritty dominance, 90% of Fox’s dialogue is peppered with fuck this and fuckin’ that. As is far too often the case, it’s decided that the only way to make a woman an action hero is to make her joylessly competent amid some quippy men with actual personalities.

The only instance of her getting any sort of levity is when she asks, “Whose stupid fucking idea was this mission anyway?”

“Uh… yours.”

“Oh, yeah,” she dryly responds. And in fairness, it makes a solid case against any further attempts at humor.

While it’s a shock that this is the script as better than expected, Bassett’s confession that the production went with the “just go for the biggest name and work down the list” approach to casting is entirely unsurprising. It is indeed “ridiculous” that Megan Fox was cast as what’s meant to be a snarling badass, here presented as if her lines were written in the blood on her co-stars’ faces. Scoring Fox was like getting gonorrhea; the sex wasn’t worth how frequently painful it is.

And though it’s no fault of her own, Fox acts like her military training was done lasertag style: five minutes prior to shooting and only covering how to put on the vest and hold the gun. Flaunted on the home media cover, her primary combat stance is bolt upright—as if her choosing heavy foundation over camo face-paint didn’t already look preposterous enough. The only character that looks more out of place than Fox is the lion, and that’s only because it’s dreadfully computer-generated and animated at about 12 frames per second. It looks like Harryhausen by way of a Tomb Raider game.

Shortly after the yuks of its “chopped liver” line, Rogue closes on a serious note. In a final title card, this movie about rescuing girls from human trafficking asks us to remember the very real issue of… LION FARMS. Bassett showing the same disregard for human life but love of lions as Boss—who calls lion farms what else but “fucked up”—is the only genuinely funny part of this thing. (Sorry, comic relief guy from Law & Order: SVU whose name will not be investigated.) Yet for as poor and banal as this thing is, it accidentally raises a better matter. Just as we can’t judge the lion for being a lion, how harshly can we judge this straight-to-video trash, never meant for theaters, for being just that? Brought up in the confines of a Blu-ray case, what else could we get but something so violent, dimwitted, and unsocialized?

Grade: D+

Rogue
Director: M. J. Bassett
Studio: Lionsgate
Runtime: 105 minutes
Cast: Megan Fox, Philip Winchester, Jessica Sutton, Calli Taylor, Greg Kriek, Adam Deacon, Sisandra Henna

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