Rogue (2020) is at least the third feature titled simply “Rogue,” to say nothing of the many movies with the word “rogue” in their titles, so it may be better to just think about it as “the movie directed by a trans woman where Megan Fox leads a gang of mercenaries under siege by Al-Shabaab and a lion.” It’s the Megan Fox in the lead and lion parts that set Rogue apart from other action horror movies, and the Megan Fox action star and directed by a trans woman aspects that made it something I needed to see.
Co-writer and director MJ Bassett has a good amount of stylized horror and action movies under her belt, possibly most significantly Silent Hill: Revelation 3D (yes the acronym is SHR3D and yes that is awesome), as well as a number of episodes of premium TV shows like Altered Carbon and Ash vs Evil Dead so it’s no wonder that she directs the hell out of the action in Rogue. I’m not usually a fan of gun action, but the sequences here are so well choreographed, with clear geography and a lot of movement, that they all have serious momentum. There’s also a great looking, but perhaps not so realistic, deep red blood spray that hovers in the air for a moment after anyone is shot.
Sadly the best action sequence in the movie is also the first. Megan Fox’s Sam and her band of mercenaries attack an Al-Shabaab compound to free the kidnapped governor’s daughter and find themselves in a jeep and pick-up chase across the Somalian desert. The sequence expands from the mercenary attack on the small compound to a thrilling chase that includes one of the most beautiful helicopter explosions I’ve ever seen when the Al-Shabaab militants shoot down what was supposed to be the mercenaries’ extraction ride.
Having lost their extraction opportunity, the team and the young girls they’ve freed get away from their pursuers and set up camp in the mansion at a seemingly abandoned lion farm. This is where the premise really sets in as we learn that there’s a lioness who hasn’t yet left the farm and begins to pick off members of the mercenary team.
This middle portion of the movie plays like a siege slasher where the killer is a lion and the victims are ex-military. It’s a lot of fun watching the team figure out what is taking out members before trying to find a way to fight a lion without any high caliber bullets. Apparently it’s incredibly difficult to fight a lion without significant firepower.
This section also capitalizes on the surprising amount of personality afforded these characters. The team has great banter and there’s a recurring bit about singing “Everybody (Backstreet’s Back)” together to help each other through injuries. It’s surprisingly touching and charming for a low-budget actioner. This genuine charm is hurt significantly by the few scenes in the film that attempt to inject unnecessarily heavy emotion with a very healthy dose of preaching about the evils of the world and the horrors that are perpetrated against humans and animals alike. There’s an extended conversation between one of the mercenaries who escaped Al-Shabaab after his wife and children were murdered and the girls who were kidnapped by Al-Shabaab that’s almost eye-roll inducing and very uncomfortable to watch as it essentially boils down to an argument of “no, I’ve suffered more.”
Luckily there aren’t too many of these scenes and overall Rogue plays to its strengths as an action and animal attack horror movie. And while the CG lion looks absolutely awful, that’s more than made up for with the stylized cinematography, genuinely thrilling action sequences, surprising charm, and Megan Fox in full movie star mode. It’s both a testament to how beautiful she is and to how silly action movies with beautiful women are that throughout she looks stunning in fatigues. She has fake eyelashes on and perfectly styled hair for the duration of the movie and the most blood she gets on her is a small splash on her cheek that looks more like poorly applied blush than splatter. But beyond her good looks she is fully believable as the tough and charismatic mercenary leader who says things like “I’m gonna be so pissed if I die because I did the right thing.”
Rogue may not be anything extremely special, but it is extremely well made (aside from that CG lion) and fully delivers on the promises it makes as a genre movie while also igniting a hope for more Megan Fox led action movies to come.