Tuesday, December 03, 2019

Rogue Warfare: Fighting Terror with Oppressive Regimes

How does China “fight terrorism?” By condemning hundreds of thousands of innocent Uyghurs from East Turkestan to concentration camps. As for Russia, they do their utmost to prop up terrorist-sponsoring states, like Syria and Iran. Yet, both have permanent seats on the UN Security council, so both are part of a decidedly fictional 5-nation anti-terrorism military force. Credibility takes a backseat to courting the Chinese and Russian box offices throughout Mike Gunther’s Rogue Warfare, which releases today on DVD.

As the film opens, the unnamed POTUS puts his John Hancock on the “Rogue” military pact with the UK, France, Russia, and China. He harkens back to the day when all five nations aligned to fight the Axis powers (declining to mention Russia initially sided with Hitler—ask Poland about that). They are tasked with fighting extreme Islamist terrorist, but Gunther’s screenplay doesn’t even have the guts to call out Daesh or Al-Qaeda. Instead, they will be tracking a “rogue” terrorist organization known as the Black Masks.

Still, watching the free and not-the-least-bit free worlds take on generic Islamist terror could still be entertaining, but the inter-team dynamics seem to be carefully calibrated to kill any joy that could come from this film. Naturally, the Brit is a trigger-happy jerk who has utter contempt for teamwork, while Chinese and Russian members always play well with others.

Even more problematic, at least half the film feels like it is devoted the terrorists’ “Supreme Leader” as he airs his grievances and screeds. Frankly, this film starts to feel like recruiting propaganda for anti-Western terrorist groups. It would be offensive, if it weren’t so dull.

It is all quite a crying shame, because there is a pent-up demand for terrorism thrillers that have respect for freedom and Western values. At least, there are a few decent action scenes in between Supremo’s pontificating. Taipei-born Fernando Chien does some particularly nice work as the knife-wielding Xu (from the other China). Unfortunately, the steely Will Yun Lee is totally wasted as Daniel, the Rogue Team leader. The same is true for Stephen Lang (who is perfectly cast as the President). Only Chris Mulkey makes any kind of hay as their commanding officer, Brisco.

What a bitter disappointment. The premise is bogus and the execution is woefully misguided. Even the ending is deeply unsatisfying. Definitely not recommended, Rogue Warfare releases today (12/3) on DVD.