ROGUE (2020)

(Hulu/VOD) If you’re a big fan of Cinemax’s short-lived pulpy action programming — I, for one, am a big fan of one-season wonder QUARRY, based on Max Allan Collins’ gritty novels. — you’re probably familiar with M.J. Bassett, the writer/director of ROGUE *, and steadfast Cinemax action creative. (Bassett also helmed SOLOMAN KANE (2009) and SILENT HILL: REVELATIONS (2012).)

If you aren’t familiar with Cinemax’s action block, which includes STRIKE BACK and BANSHEE — the former of which Bassett contributed to — you know that you’re not watching for plot, but for jaw-dropping action set-pieces, stylish gunfights, and occasional bits of counterpointing character work. ROGUE is in the same mold: Megan Fox is a gun-for-hire, paid to form an extraordinarily well-armed troop to rescue the governor’s daughter (which governor? It doesn’t matter!) from a nefarious crime ring that traffics in guns, underage girls, and giant cats. (Before becoming a director, Barrett also was a nature photojournalist, so much of ROGUE feels like a big -fuck you- to the hurt that she’s witnessed.)

Shortly after Fox’s troop rescues the daughter and a few other girls from their cages, they find themselves stranded in the wilderness, pursued by the very angry crime ring and surrounded by the vengeful lions that they accidentally ended up freeing.

From there it dials into ‘survive until sunrise’ mode and, while the locked location could drag the material down, Bassett and the cast/crew elevate it into a thrilling romp. While Fox’s performance as an action hero is a bit hit-and-miss, the supporting cast — including Philip Winchester — insert their own quirky mannerisms and bring a bit of levity to what could otherwise be a mind-numbing array of bloody deaths. There are number of quaint little scripting details, such as one dude thanking another character for a hot grenade, during a massive firefight, that also ramp up the charm in a film that other filmmakers might not think to include.

* To be clear, this is unrelated to the giant croc film ROGUE (2007) that I recommended in October.