One of Netflix’s newest additions to its library of content is a French action film, written and directed by Olivier Marchal, “Rogue City.” Though it calls itself an action film, it is difficult for me to classify it as one. This is much more of a crime drama however, that misidentification of genre is the least of this film’s issues.
To start, this movie has problems from the first act. The first problem is the number of characters involved in the plot.
Movies with large casts can be successful; films by legendary director Martin Scorsese often have tons of characters, but it requires setup in the opening act or some other film device. Scorsese often employs a voice-over by the main character to quickly introduce minor characters and provide necessary background information for the audience. However, his films also have fairly long runtimes, so Scorsese uses the longer than usual first act to introduce characters and situations.
The issue with this film is that it does neither of those things. Being under two hours in length, there is little time to introduce all the necessary characters in the first act. That being said, with the time they had, they did a poor job introducing them anyway. Many characters have major roles in the storyline and by the time you’re in the third act, you barely know their names and titles. To make this film more successful, they should have slowed down or rewritten the opening to more effectively introduce all the characters.
“The issue with this film is that it does neither of those things.”
As discussed earlier, this film is not an action film, but rather a crime drama. There is very little action and when there is, it plays out very quickly. Only one scene takes its time with the action, but unfortunately that scene takes place in complete darkness. Much of the runtime is used to explore the dramatic elements of the film. This film really needed more action and less drama. The action scenes were pretty well-choreographed but are rushed through. The allocation of runtime to action and drama needs to be different in order to fix this film.
However, even those problems are not the main reason this picture doesn’t work. The main reason is because of its characters and plot. The main protagonists of this film are completely unlikeable. A film can be successful with an unlikeable protagonist, like Paul Thomas Anderson’s “There Will Be Blood” and David Fincher’s “The Social Network,” but with those films usually a supporting character serves the role as a person the audience is rooting for. This film does not have that. None of the key characters are likeable and that really takes the viewer out of the experience. The people the film makes you root for continuously make unethical decisions (it also makes it worse that it is cops making these choices), so as time goes on, you stop caring about the fate of any character. This makes the picture difficult to watch.
The plot issues stem from the fact there are too many characters with too little setup. The plot is very convoluted and difficult to follow. The scenes feel unconnected and poorly constructed at times. There are many themes in the storyline, but the overall story just doesn’t make much sense. There is a somewhat strong main theme, but the thematic storyline does not do a very good job delivering that theme. The film needs a moral protagonist or side character to deliver the thematic message more effectively, but that would require many plot changes.
In terms of positives, the visuals are pretty solid. The lighting is quite good in many scenes and the shot composition is fairly decent. That being said, there are some odd stylistic choices throughout the film. For one, the police headquarters looks like a rundown, unfinished basement, which certainly gives the film an interesting tone, though might not be so realistic. Also, one scene has a character putting his children to bed, but based on the lighting it seems like it’s three in the afternoon. These stylistic choices make the film all the more confusing.
In conclusion, this film struggles with a multitude of things and has little that evens out the negatives. Thus, this film does not earn a recommendation.