What’s it About?
An American journalist on assignment in the Australian outback encounters a man-eating crocodile.
Directed by Greg Mclean (Greg McLean)
8 out of 10
Greg Mclean (aka Greg McLean) has had a short but renowned career as part of the modern “Splat Pack” bunch of directors which includes Rob Zombie (Halloween), Eli Roth (Hemlock Grove), James Wan (Death Sentence) and even Alexandre Aja (Haute Tension). Mclean started with the short: “ICQ” and is now in post production with “Wolf Creek 2,” the sequel to the movie Mclean is most noted for which was released in 2005. But in 2007, Mclean directed a delightful, visceral and almost completely overlooked movie about a Journalist, a naturalist boat tour guide and one big ass angry Croc aptly named “Rogue.”
The film is an Australian Indie production that I only recently watched to my complete satisfaction. It took me a while to get to it simply because I hadn’t heard of it until I was on Netflix browsing some really questionable titles about killer Crocs, Alligators and just about every other amalgam of beastie from Mega-Shark to Mega-Dino to Mega- whatever. It appears that the good ole Croc is still being urged to go up against other marine monsters while enduring strange merges with other creatures. Ahem. Hello, The Asylum. Ahem.
Anyway, I digress. I could not find something to watch but as I looked through my treasure trove of screeners, I found “Rogue” and I popped it in thinking it was perhaps about a serial killer or perhaps a road trip flick. Mclean’s film was a very cool surprise. It immediately is like-able as are the characters, locales and photography by DP Will Gibson who shot “Wolf Creek” for Mclean. It is the type of killer animal flick that is downright full of fear, suspense and it is totally believable. It works because Mclean is downright dead serious about how he wants to portray an everyday, uneventful Croc watching boat trip through the Aussie Northern Territory that turns deadly because of a very real threat that is never fully seen until it is too late and you have become lunch.
Radha Mitchell (Pitch Black and Silent Hill) plays the tour guide/boat Captain named Kate that takes some unwitting tourists on a trip through an Australian National Park. Among them is a jaded travel reporter named Pete played by Michael Vartan (Alias, One Hour Photo). He finds the tour after visiting a remote and dusty bar which he finds offensive and after making the locals sore at him (there is a fly in the coffee gag, of course) he decides to wander off and gaze at “The Wall of local man-eating Croc articles and pictures pinned to it. Scattered among them, Mclean inserts real life photos that are gory, ghastly and quite disturbing.
In perfect manner, this “Splat Pack” alum prepares us for a dis-quieting time to come where with an empty canvas he paints an entertaining picture full of local color with a gritty pallette. There are no tongue-in-cheek moments early on in “Rogue” and as the film plays out Mclean’s movie is handled with sober detail and an un-comical look at wildlife in Australia. Once the trip commences Mclean establishes the coterie of characters from a argumentative family to an overzealous photographer.
When the trip begins to wind down, a flare is spotted and Kate is forced by law to investigate what has happened. They turn and travel to find out what could have transpired to the party that fired the flare. But not before running afoul of 2 big mouthed local fishermen, one played by Sam Worthington (Terminator: Salvation) named Neil. Once there, Pete and Kate start to work together to determine what happened to the crew of another boat that is half sunken in a remote part of the river.
It isn’t long before the massive man-eating Croc attacks the boat and sends the tourists, Kate and Pete scrambling and swimming to a small island that they try to find safety on. Kate lets them all know that this type of Croc is a “Rogue” (much like Hooper’s shark theory in “Jaws) and that it is aggressive since it seems they are in it’s territory. They also find out that with the tide coming in, their safety on the island is jeopardized making them vulnerable to the Croc.
“Rogue” is everything that the cheesy (cheesy is ok once in a while) “Z” grade monster flicks emulate in story and antagonist only. These other films, which are a dime a dozen, do have their place, though, but “Rogue” is the real deal. It is a killer animal picture we need to watch and enjoy every so often to be truly entertained and frightened. Mclean’s monster Croc is fast, rendered beautifully, huge and rarely seen which of course is the code to go by if you want to scare the audience by not showing them what is there. It’s all really psychological and Mclean manipulates the material, actors (Mitchell and Vartan have an earthy chemistry that feels real) and action much to his benefit.
The film never feels fake, unlikely and overly weighty. The night time scenes of the group trying to survive a hair raising and suspenseful battle with the Croc is both tense and uneasy leaving the audience physically queasy. As they try one by one, (with the help of jerk turned wanna be hero, Neil) to slide slowly across an elevated rope across the water, the tension builds and builds until the movie lets loose a series of chilling man vs animal sequences that never lets up. The film, being very dark and confident, uses all the right moves, tricks and shameless scare tactics to entertain us. It manages to have an almost docu-drama mien that is impressive and foreboding.
The finale which takes place in the Croc’s lair is absolutely amazing to watch. It isn’t over the top and feels very likely. With the accurate and believable performances of Vartan, Worthington, Mitchell and even the young Mia Wasikowska (Stoker), Mclean manages to provide a magnetic and gripping survival movie that has a great climax and a virtuous look during the peaceful establishing shots of the beautiful Australian countryside. “Rogue” is tantalizing and never tedious like these other monster Croc films that inhabit Netflix like a viral outbreak. This movie is a serious as a heart attack and it is actually fun but after you experience the very suspenseful encounters with it’s main character.
The film has a b movie feel sometimes but it never gets trapped in that tar pit of un-inventiveness. For a budget of only 27 Mil or so the movie uses every penny wisely. Between scenes of carnage, Mclean handles the dialog, scenic beauty and relationships with deft skill. This is a killer Croc flick that definitely gives “Lake Placid” and John Sayles’ “Alligator,” a run for it’s money. Don’t forget to stick around for that last shot of “The Wall.” You won’t be disappointed. Enjoy! Recommended!