Netflix movie Rogue City is known as Bronx in its native France, where the word is sort of slang for FUBAR. The movie — written and directed by former cop Olivier Marchal — doesn’t necessarily review itself in that sense, but it may test your resolve for good cop/bad cop/bad cop/bad cop/worse cop twisty thrillers.
ROGUE CITY: STREAM IT OR SKIP IT?
The Gist: Rogue City is rated TV-MA for nudity, suicide, sexual violence and some other unsavory reasons. Its first shot is a black screen: BANG, we hear. Screaming. BANG BANG. Dog barking. Then, we see a sad man with a shotgun. BANG. He shoots the dog. So far, just the usual murder violence. Then he points the shotgun at his chin. BANG. There you go: true TV-MA stuff. We’re two minutes into the movie, maybe less. A subtitle: THREE WEEKS EARLIER. That means everyone in the first scene is still alive, resurrected via movie magic, possibly so we can grow concerned about them, and possibly even emotionally attached, before we probably experience their deaths again.
The scene: A prison. An old man, an organized crime lord, is being escorted to another facility. Lots of men around him. Machine guns, vests, muy serioso expressions. One of the men is the sad man with the shotgun, Kapellian (Stanislas Merhar), so he’s a cop. The head of the operation is Vronski (Lannick Gautry). The old man asks Vronski to pull the police escort over to the hospital so he can visit his wife. His requests have been denied. She’s dying. Vronski grants the request, goes in with him. The woman wants to die. Vronski steps out of the room while the old man smothers her. A mercy killing. It happens offscreen, as the movie saves the brutal, splattery stuff for us. Can’t have too much killing in a movie, you know.
As a new police chief (Jean Reno) is sworn in, we get to know some of these cops: They’re on the squad that targets organized crime. Vronski has a pregnant wife and they live on a houseboat, Kapellian is a drunk and his wife is unhappy, stuff like that. Kapellian makes a quip about that hottie over there and the new chief steps in and says, hey, that’s my daughter (Barbara Obsomer) ya mook, and she’s gonna be working with YOU guys. Woops.
There’s a shootout at a seaside bar, one gang gunning for another. Lots of innocent folk die in a hail of bullets. That and other recent goings-on in the criminal underworld don’t add up, so internal affairs is investigating the unit for corruption. Vronski furrows his brow. A couple dozen other characters follow suit. Give them some Oil of Olay. Who are all these people? I don’t know. The psycho bad guy who rips the clothes off the wife of a compromised cop and threatens to rape her? He has a mottled eye and looks like someone melted Kevin Bacon a little, so I remember him. There will be more death and shooting and good guy-bad guy entanglements, don’t worry. And yet here I am, propping my eyelids open with toothpicks.
What Movies Will It Remind You Of?: Thirty dozen other corrupt-cop/subterfuge flicks existing in the B-movie realm. I forget which ones. Wait, here’s one: The Departed. Rogue City is not as good as The Departed. That’s definitely an A-movie.
Performance Worth Watching: That guy. You know. The one who looks like his will to live has been pecked to death by pigeons. That one. Oh, and Claudia Cardinale turns up in this movie. She’s a legend, you know. Small role. Nice to see her, I gotta say.
Memorable Dialogue: (Grumbling under breath)
Sex and Skin: Do dead, bloody, shot-up naked bodies in crime scenes count? There’s a few of those. There’s the rape-threat scene. And a scene where a couple of the almost-good guys bust up a post-coital snuggle between a couple and chase the guy and his dangly thingums through an alley before they kill him. And a scene where the hunky protagonist is kadoinking with his wife with much passion and they can’t even finish without his phone ringing. The anti-gang squad’s work won’t let him finish f—ing because it’s never f—ing done.
Our Take: I haven’t completely lost my patience with this type of movie, but I quickly lost it with Rogue City, what with its cast of relentless scowlers, ever-shifting loyalties, lack of any real characters and general cynicism for the state of the human soul, which is so fragile, so easily coerced, so frequently blasted full of holes by other souls soon to be blasted full of holes by other souls who– you get it. And for what? What, I ask? A little bit of money? There’s more to life than a little money you know. And it’s a beautiful day.
I just don’t understand it, I said to myself upon the umpteenth twist in this thing, as it unspooled muddy and grim in front of me. If you’re doing this kind of work, you can’t be a hardliner — you’re a good guy who does bad things, a bad guy who does good things. There’s some funeral scenes, scenes of police interrogations gone awry, a nifty shootout on a beach. At least I think it was nifty — it happened in the dark and I couldn’t tell who was where and why was what. This is not a poorly made movie; it has a couple solid action sequences, but they’re not enough to push this two-hour slog forward. The lighting is nice on the grimfaces, and the wind rustles their hair just so. Maybe there’s something to be gleaned here about morals and ethics and crap, but man, I just don’t have time to sit around and follow these hardcase froggos and trogs and dullards while they make some wrong bad decisions and then have to make the right bad decisions to correct them. Hard pass.
Our Call: SKIP IT. Instant cop thriller, just add water.
Stream Rogue City on Netflix