Just when you thought it was safe to back to Australia… (from Rogue)
Every now and again a movie pops up on DVD that is so spectacularly undeserving of the direct-to-video death curse that it actually makes me angry. And more often than not, the Weinstein brothers are somehow involved. Apparently if a movie doesn’t have the slightest chance of getting them either an Oscar or a hand-job from Gwyneth Paltrow, it’s straight to Netflix, thank you very much!
Anyway, Greg Mclean‘s 2007 giant crocodile opus Rogue falls squarely into this category. A wonderfully scary, slickly-produced and incredibly fun little monster movie, it’s a damn shame that the movie wasn’t given a proper go on theater screens, because it would have been a total pisser to watch with an audience.
Harvey and Bob: If you hear the sound of a tick-tocking clock, that croc is coming for you …
Radha Mitchell just heard how many screens this movie was released on
Still on his “make sure no one EVER comes to Australia again” campaign, McLean made an interesting choice to follow up the hugely popular survival horror flick Wolf Creek with a decidedly cheekier giant animal movie that owes more to Jaws 2 (or Jeepers Creepers 2, by association) than TCM or The Hills Have Eyes. The good news is, he’s just as good (if not better) at delivering wonderfully-crafted action suspense sequences as he is fucking with backpackers.
The basic setup: Travel journalist Pete McKell (Michael Vartan from Alias … hey, where the hell have YOU been, kid?) is in Australia putting the finishing touches on a story, and while stuck in some remote armpit of the outback hops on a river cruise led by plucky local Kate Ryan (the eternally underappreciated Radha Mitchell). The boatful of assorted tourists takes off, and of course before you know it are up to their point-and-snaps in Serious Trouble.
See, it seems that this part of the canyon is rumored to be the home of an insanely large crocodile, in addition to the many sanely large crocodiles we see along the way. After a run-in with some local scamps (one of whom is played by the adorable Sam Worthington, aka the Next Big Hollywood Action Star from Terminator: Salvation, Avatar and Clash of the Titans) Kate responds to a distress flare up-river (as she is obligated to do as a captain) and before you know it the boat’s smack in the middle of the hunting ground of the Big Daddy.
The dilemma faced by the castaways is interesting: After being attacked by the enormous croc, they are stranded on an island in what is clearly a tidal river. Meaning, as soon as the tide comes in, the land they’re on will be underwater and they’ll be bobbing like animal crackers in the croc’s soup. They need to make it across the river to land (a river containing a giant animal that can jump 20 feet out of the water and outswim any of them), and fast.
What unfolds at this point is pure bliss for anyone who’s a fan of Deep Blue Sea, Orca, Paula Deen’s Home Cooking or anything else where something very large and hungry picks off innocents one by one. The buildup to the first attack is wonderfully measured, and Mclean takes his time introducing the boatload of characters, who range from a woman fighting cancer and her husband and daughter to a man carrying his late wife’s ashes to a robust young woman from the UK clearly out to get some hot Aussie beef (I’ll let you guess which was my favorite).
There are a few American douchebags there to mess up the works, but in the end even the “nicest” of the characters show their ugly sides at some point or another, which makes things much more interesting, as it’s harder who’s next to become gator croc bait. And there’s also a dog named “Kevin”, if that’s your thing.
Mclean has crafted a lean, mean and incredibly fun fright flick (you’ll scream a few times, I bet) that deserved a legit release way more than most of the crap that makes it to screens these days. Heck, the similarly-themed but far inferior Primeval (with Orlando Jones and The Voluptuous Horror of Dominic Purcell) made it to the theater in wide release a few months before Rogue was snuck out for one week on a handful of screens.
The movie has its flaws, but they’re truly few and far-between. The biggest WTF might come for some during the climactic showdown, when we finally see the big croc full-frontal: In a bold design move, the clearly CGI croc is made to look like it’s been rendered as a blow-up optical effect (meaning, it looks like they took close-ups of baby crocodile and stuck Michael Vartan over it). It’s visually a very unusual choice and one that might turn off some viewers; I thought it was neat, but I also find the concept of a Muppet Baby crocodile on steroids bitch-slapping the guy from Never Been Kissed to be patently hilarious.
Oh, and I don’t know whose idea the title “Rogue” was to begin with, but it’s not a very good one. Anyone else think it sounds like an action drama about a spy who has forgotten his past and turns against the agency that trained him or an X-Men spinoff?
Currently Mclean has no project listed as being in development, and I only hope that the torpedoing of Rogue hasn’t soured him on Hollywood, as he’s delivered two wildly different yet very solid movies in his young career. Maybe he’s learned to never smile at a crocodile, but let’s hope he still keeps bringing the scary.
RATING (Out of 5):
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