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A boat tour of the Australian outback turns into a nightmare for a group of tourists when the skipper decides to investigate a pair of distress flares up the river (which just so happens to be off limits). When the group reaches the area, they find a sunken boat with no survivors. Suddenly, the source of the wreck, a 7-metre saltwater crocodile, makes its presence known and chomps a hole in the tour boat, leaving the crew and tourists to fend for themselves on a small island in the middle of the river. Crikey!
I've said before that I'm not the biggest fan of these killer animal movies (take LAKE PLACID 2, for example), but there are a select few that make for a fun ride. ROGUE, the latest effort from WOLF CREEK director Greg McLean, is one of those select few. Seriously, this is what PRIMEVAL should've been (and wasn't), and more proof the Weinstein's haven't a clue on the genre.
For starters, I have to give kudos to McLean and his directing. The man builds tension in ROGUE like it was second nature. Adopting the 'less is more' approach here when it comes to the croc is greatly appreciated, giving the viewer time to get riled up before letting the hammer fall. Another aspect I loved was the cinematography. McLean and his DP, the late Will Gibson, craft beautiful shots of the Northern Territory of Australia, showcasing the immenseness and isolation of the wilderness that I for one would love to see firsthand (but not get stranded in).
But perhaps the biggest plus for ROGUE has to be its character development. Without question, McLean was a genius in casting these folks, staying away from clichés and stereotypes and giving us human beings that you gave a damn about. Michael Vartan and Radha Mitchell were standouts of a solid group. Vartan, playing the reluctant hero and stubble chinned Pete McKell, was played up at first as a typical asshole American tourist, but eventually came through. Likewise, Mitchell and her sexy Aussie accent played a believable character in the charismatic Kate Ryan, and has a great exchange with Vartan (which also gives a nod to JAWS).
On the other side of things, those looking for a gory bonanza of croc kills are going to be disappointed, even with the 'unrated' cut of the film. Relying on the mood and tone more than plasma, the 'unrated' claim comes in the form of more character development scenes, which on the surface is a cheat for gorehounds (blame the Weinsteins, not McLean), but also causes the pacing to hiccup in spots. Also, there are a couple of parts near the end where either the studio decided to do some lazy rewrites or some other bizarre thing, but it took me out of the film for a bit, which was a disappointment (especially after the wonderful first half).
Overall, ROGUE is a winner for fans looking to wash away the taste of the latest killer croc movies. McLean and company have crafted a gorgeous yet tension-filled ditty with believable characters and one film that I was glad to have given a spin.
Video: Coupled with the amazing cinematography, the anamorphic 1.85:1 widescreen transfer is a treat for the eyes. Colours are rich and vibrant, with some great details. The use of brown and green tints could be seen as overdone in spots, but that's reaching for it.
Audio: Just as impressive as the video. The Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround track is amazing, particularly the bass when the croc is out and about. Even before that happens, the sound rises in time with the tension, working doubly to get you going. As crisp and clean as it is, the audio department is missing some directionals, which aren't utilized as much as they should've been. Still, this is some good ear candy to have.
Topping off a great film like this are some great extras that drive home just how much talent and love went into this film.
First up is an audio commentary with director Greg McLean, who wins the Bruce Campbell Award for best solo commentary in my book. The man is laid back, witty, and chock full of information and anecdotes about the film, the cast, and in general provides a lot more than what you'd expect from a one-person commentary. Great stuff!
Next is an outstanding making-of documentary The Making of Rogue, which clocks in at over 45 minutes. Covering everything from the genesis of the project (McLean refers to a croc named 'Sweetheart' that attacked fishing boats in the late '70s as some basis of inspiration), to stunts and visual effects, to score and then some, every notable member of the cast and crew spill their guts and talk of just what went into this film. Of note is the fact that the cast was seriously into making a horror flick, particularly Vartan, who describes his reaction to WOLF CREEK and his desire to work with McLean.
Following that massive doc are a collection of mini documentaries called Welcome to the Territory: A Gallery of Mini-Documentaries. The featurette is divided up into three parts: the effects, the music and the Northern Territory. 'The effects' looks a bit more in-depth into the workings of the VFX team, which for an effects nut like me is gold. 'The music' turns its sights (and ears) onto the score, which was composed by Francois Tetaz, who talks about how he tried to make the score portray the croc's physicality. Lastly, 'the Northern Territory' takes a look at the beauty and timelessness of the location for the film, which if you haven't realized by now, is a star in its own right.
Finishing up the extras is a clip called The Real Rogue, which is kind of left over from the effects doc, the film's theatrical trailer and trailers for other releases by Dimension. Top it all off with an embossed DVD slipcase, and you have one packed disc.
McLean does it again with ROGUE, a thoroughly-enjoyable tension trip that brings along sweet visuals and characters to make a satisfying creature feature. The DVD is packed with love in the form of extras, which compliment the film perfectly and make you appreciate it that much more. Forget PRIMEVAL, this is the killer croc movie you want.