Aussie director Greg Mclean probably didn’t think there was anything more dangerous than the crocs in his new movie “Rogue”. Of course, that was before he met the suits in Hollywood. What was supposed to be Mclean’s much-anticipated follow-up to his critical and commercial hit “Wolf Creek” ended up being a tangled mess of changed release dates, distribution entanglements, and Hollywood rickety muck, which is about three times more muckity than your average muck. (Hollywood never does anything small, God bless them, even when they’re drowning a movie on purpose.) And when Hollywood gets its muck into you, the crocs are the least of your worries. Mclean found that out when, after a year of nothing happening, the Weinstein Company summarily dumped his movies into a couple of unsuspecting theaters across America before sending it on its way to DVD shelves, where it would be forced to pick off the scraps of late-night movie renters.
Mclean’s “Rogue” stars Aussie Radha Mitchell (“Pitch Black”) as Australian riverboat tour guide Kate Ryan and Michael Vartan (TV’s Alias) as an American travel writer who, along with a dozen or so others, take a ride down the Australian river on a lazy, hot day. The tour is mostly uneventful, with only a minor stop to accommodate a couple of local troublemakers (one of whom is Sam Worthington), but the ride back to land proves to be disastrous. It starts with an emergency flair in the distance, and ends with one seriously enormous crocodile chowing down on the tour group one by one. Which leads to this observation: The Australian tourism board must hate Mclean. He’s already convinced tourists to scratch the Australian outback from their travel plans, and now he’s made the country’s rivers mightily uninviting.
The croc in “Rogue” is a nasty little bugger, though “little” is not the correct description; the words, “bigger than a friggin’ Mack truck and ten times as fast” might be more appropriate. Fortunately for the gore fans out there, Mclean also has a tendency towards the nasty. Before the film has even hit the 40 minute mark, Mclean has drowned an entire boat full of tourists, unleashed his croc to chump down on one of Kate’s tourists, and taken out a local. For those keeping track, that’s three boats down, and one very hungry croc circling. The explanation we are given for the aggressive behavior is that the humans are encroaching on its territory, and the croc is none too pleased. To make matters worse, Kate’s boat is damaged, and the tour group ends up stuck in a small island in the middle of the river that is, as night falls, about to get flooded by the rising tide. Yes, ladies and gentlemen, it sucks to be a tourist today.
What makes “Rogue” such a perfect little creature movie is its simplicity. Mclean seems uninterested in providing pathos or personality for his creature. No radiation leak by Big Oil or, as is more likely in a creature movie, Big Uncaring Genetics Company Conducting Illegal Experiments™ to blame for the croc’s freakishly huge size. Nope, none of that Sci Fi Channel Original Movie nonsense. This thing is natural, and it is, first and foremost, a killing machine. The croc doesn’t show its entire length until the 50-minute mark, but by then we’ve already seen what it can do, and our first actual look at its massive length is awe-inspiring. This thing is off the scales in size, and combined with its natural speed, and it’s going to take a miracle to save our tourists. Or a bazooka. Maybe more. A dozen, definitely, might do the trick. Maybe. Did I mention this thing is as big as a building and has learned the benefits of hoarding fresh meat?
Technically the stars of “Rogue” are Michael Vartan and Radha Mitchell, but let’s face it, while it’s nice to hear Radha do her natural Aussie accent in a movie for once, and Vartan no doubt has a nice career ahead of him, the real star of this bad boy is the bad boy himself – the croc. My DVD copy was not exactly pristine, but I would imagine the croc was achieved with a combination of CGI and practical effects. Whatever they used, however they did it, it worked. The way this thing moved, the way it looked at you, even the way it slept, is the stuff of nightmares. And yes, the lack of reasoning behind the croc’s rampage only makes it more horrifying. Why is it killing so many people? Simply put, because it’s big, because it’s got teeth the size of your ankles, and because it can, that’s why. There’s nothing more terrifying than a killer that does what it does simply because it knows it can, and you can’t stop it.
If you’re a fan of creature movies, definitely pick up “Rogue” when you run across it at your local DVD shop. It’s got everything a movie about a big, giant killer animal is supposed to have – gory, violent deaths, outstanding pacing, and plenty of “scream at the screen for them to run or die” set pieces. There is only one real stupid move by the survivors that I can recall, and that is easily chalked up to human nature. Once the killing starts, the film rarely lets up; it’s only towards the end, as the film enters its final 20 minutes or so that the loud action disappears, replaced by some truly harrowing sequences as Vartan’s hero goes mano-a-mano with the killer croc. You wouldn’t think a world-weary travel writer would have much of a chance again a living, breathing killing machine like our giant croc, but you’d be wrong.
Greg Mclean (director) / Greg Mclean (screenplay)
CAST: Radha Mitchell … Kate Ryan
Michael Vartan … Pete McKell
Sam Worthington … Neil
Caroline Brazier … Mary Ellen
Stephen Curry … Simon
Celia Ireland … Gwen
John Jarratt … Russell