Rogue City underlines its intention at the very outset, with its title. There are the rogues and there are the cops of the city, and the ensuing showdown creates scope for a convenient quota of action and drama to set up a near-two hour crime thriller.
If writer-director Olivier Marchal’s French film has an ordinary premise, the filmmaker tries to make up with violence and drama. Marchal, incidentally, is a former policeman and with a cops-and-gangsters subject at hand, the action should have been a highlight.
Ideally this is big screen fare, and the film could have done with a lot more action. European cinema has a way of executing violence with gritty relish, using of the right atmospherics and not always banking on technical gloss. While the approach is sporadically utilised, the potential of an action-packed thriller isn’t wholly explored here.
A bleak mood is set in the opening shots. The film starts off with a black screen and an unsettling scream, with the camera then training onto a man with frown and a shotgun. A dog barks nearby, man shoots dog, and then goes on to shoot himself. That’s barely a three minutes into the story, laying down the template for the heavy drama to follow.
The story unfolds from the perspective of maverick cop Richard Vronski, essayed by the dapper Lannick Gautry. Vronski is a member of Marseille’s Anti-Gang Brigade and he does not necessarily believe in playing by the rules when it comes to nabbing the bad guys. His style is unorthodox but effective, and as gang wars about town get bloodier, Vronski’s methods will be put to test. He has to get on with his job and also protect his teammates, in a milieu where a brutal war of supremacy on the streets is coupled by corruption within the ranks.
For Marchal, it is evident, the focus was never on seriously understanding the sordid realities facing either cops or criminals. Rather, the filmmaker and his team seem more interested in tapping into the core idea to set up raw violence and basic drama.
There is little here for you if action bordering on gore does not turn you on. The storytelling and the technical treatment are unpretentious, evidently not ambitious enough about reinventing the cops-and-gangsters genre in any way. Neither does the film create much scope for its cast to show off acting skills.
Rogue City is a toast of carnage and chaos the old school way, un-apologetically so.
Rogue City (French film streaming with English subtitles); Cast: Lannick Gautry, Stanislas Merhar, Kaaris, David Belle, Patrick Catalifo, Moussa Maaskri, Catherine Marchal, Jean Reno; Direction: Olivier Marchal
–ians, VINAYAK CHAKRAVORTY