Rogue (2020)

Director: MJ Bassett

Running Time: 106 Minutes

Certification: 15

Starring: Megan Fox, Philip Winchester, Sisanda Henna, Adam Deacon, Jessica Sutton, Kenneth Fok, Calli Taylor

On the plains of Africa, mercenary Samantha O'Hara (Megan Fox) leads an elite squad of soldiers. Their mission? Rescue a hostage from a group of violent terrorists. The team is left stranded when it all goes wrong, closely followed by a ferocious group of rebels. On top of it all, a ravenous lioness has escaped from an illegal lion farm, and is out for their blood.

As we enter the feature, we see the team laying in wait, intent on saving a hostage from nature's biggest threat; man. Once the moment arrives, they storm the isolated location, and discover an additional two prisoners. This changes nothing for the team-leader, as they haven't been paid for their rescue also, which meets pushback from her team. This is how we're introduced to Sam, the battle-hardened leader who's by the book, and closed-off to her team. Portraying her is a terrific Megan Fox, who does well conveying the characters closed-off nature, in spite of how cliched the role may seem. She convinces just as well in the smaller moments, where she's acting as a big sister to the former-hostages, as she does with a thrilling action sequence, where she single-handedly takes down a group of rebels.

Once they've escaped the child-traffickers, the team must contend with nature, and the creatures residing in it. With the human threat on their tail, this should add to the tension, but it's diminished by how extraneous the rebels largely feel. Similarly, the wild Lion feels largely forgotten about so soon after its introduction, resulting in neither threat getting a deserved focus. Not helping matters are the questionable effects in play, which is especially glaring with the animals.

What's most appreciated are the humanistic moments, where we see the people bonding, which makes it easier to buy into their connections. It's unfortunate there wasn't more time devoted to this, as it would've benefitted a number of the characters, and helped the cast-members that are up to the task. The best example of this is Joey and Bo's friendship, which their chemistry makes easy to believe in, especially when the former keeps singing Backstreet Boys. Outside of that, there's little else to Bo besides humour which falls flat, and the same can be said of other characters.

Director MJ Bassett has crafted a straight-to-DVD action film, which is pretty passable in those regards. The real surprise comes in the message it conveys, especially as it pops up so suddenly at the end. In spite of this, it's undeniable this film's heart is in the right place, intending to bring awareness to lion farms. Here's hoping this film achieves that very goal.

Available on Digital Download from 9th November, and on DVD from 16th November