Saturday 19 September 2015

From the archive: "Rogue"

Rogue, the writer-director Greg McLean's follow-up to Wolf Creek, starts out as Speed II with crocodiles - an irresistible premise, surely worth the price of the DVD rental alone. Chicago journo Michael Vartan arrives in the outback to write a travel feature and makes the regrettable decision to sign up for a boat tour up a croc-infested river. "You'll be all right, so long as you don't go into the water," tour guide Radha Mitchell reassures her roster of yahoos, eccentrics and worriers. Sure enough, everybody will end up getting their feet wet - that is, if their feet stay on their legs long enough to actually get wet.

Rogue comes to disc a good year after the theatrically released Black Water, which similarly sought to make villains out of reptiles, but it's more authentically steeped in nature than its predecessor (Mitchell gets to reel off a list of fun facts about the monsters) and McLean's eye for the Territories, much in evidence before matters turned gory in his debut, reveals itself again here: there are a couple of gorgeous scenes - not necessarily ominous, merely lilting - of the boat just drifting upriver, enjoying the sun. 

It's a beautifully structured piece of genre writing, too, each act shifting the survivors to a location that presents them with fresh challenges, and reflecting the manner in which their scaly antagonist evolves between kills. After the boat is upturned, the centre stretch engineers to strand the passengers - and Radha's dog - on a tiny island as the sun goes down and the river tide starts to rise; one sequence involving a makeshift rope bridge generates more genuine suspense than most of this year's theatrical releases put together. Vartan, himself resurfacing after far too many years below the radar, makes for a nicely reluctant hero, and the croc - aggressive, where its brethren in Black Water were merely persistent - is a real nasty fucker.

(December 2009)

Rogue screens on BBC1 tonight at 11.55pm.

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