Netflix’s latest action film, Rogue City, comes from French director Olivier Marchal. Centered on Richard Vronski (Lannick Gautry), a police officer working to diminish and control gang violence in Marseille, France, the movie employs the typical style of American action films. Most of the scenes entail double-crossing, incessant shootouts, and hushed conversations at bars. Then, of course, the stoic policemen go home to their wives and are humanized for a few moments before killing other random characters in the next scenes.
There are a lot of reasons why Rogue City is simply ineffective, but the foremost one is the lack of enticing dialogue. Vronski has an entire team of loyal cops, yet the movie refuses to flesh out these side characters. Max Beaumont (Kaaris) has about two witty lines in the film, and Zach Damato (David Belle) seems to have even fewer. Willy Kapellian (Stanislas Merhar) is given some more backstory: Viewers see his wife and children in a few brief clips. But the film tries its hardest to sell us on Vronski’s steady virtues in a world with constantly changing loyalties.
Unfortunately for Vronski, the movie would actually succeed if it showed viewers a closer relationship between Vronski and his team members. Some humorous quips and inside jokes between the characters would actually make audiences feel connected to these characters’ personalities. But Rogue City takes itself too seriously, inhibiting the film from employing this technique, a downfall that leads to the movie mixing in a flurry of “bad guy” names and characters that are simply onerous for audiences to keep track of when watching.
Jean Reno’s role as Ange Leonetti, the new police chief in town, seems to be a major selling point of the film. Reno’s fans may watch the film expecting a masterful performance, but Rogue City hardly gives him the time. Reno has few scenes and even fewer lines. While the film may be trying to depict him as a removed mastermind, Reno is absent from the screen far too often to be developed into anything significant.
Rogue City also suffers from the problem of oversaturation: In place of witty dialogue, in every other scene, someone threatens to kill someone’s family or have an affair with someone else’s wife. Around halfway through the film, these lines lose their impact. Viewers grow desensitized to the threats and even to the gore depicted, so that it feels less and less like there is anything at stake.
The only positive aspect of the film is its pacing. Rogue City is not a slow film that builds up over time—it’s quick and instinctive. The tradeoff with this benefit, however, is that the movie shuffles in new characters and tosses out old ones based on whatever fits the plot in the current moment. Again, this technique makes audiences unable to connect with characters or truly care about the movie’s plot.
As the film goes on, it tries to complicate its protagonist, Vronski, so that viewers question whether or not this is the man they should be rooting for in the film. While this would work if audiences felt connected to Vronski, nothing makes him particularly likable or any different from the dozens of other tough, hardened cops in the millions of other action films a viewer could watch.
It seems as if, while filming it, Marchal was simply trying to fill a quota of shootout scenes for this genre. To top it all off, Rogue City shines neither in its cinematography nor in its music score. Lacking the elements that bring films to life, Rogue City contains no surprises.
Though Rogue City has some new characters, in the end, it’s essentially a film everyone has watched before, one where viewers already know how it will end. For viewers who enjoy films with gratuitous violence and action, Rogue City might be worth the watch, but even for these audiences, the two hours are not worth the inconsequential plot and lackluster character development.
Photo courtesy of Netflix