Rogue Warfare: Death Of A Nation

*1/2

Reviewed by: Jennie Kermode

Rogue Warfare 3: Death Of A Nation
"If the writing is bad, the direction is worse."

If you ask soldiers what it's actually like to fight in wars in the Middle East, they'll tell you two things: that for long periods of time, very little happens; and that often they are thrust into situations where they have very little idea what's going on. From that point of view, Rogue Warfare: Death Of A Nation captures the experience perfectly.

The uninitiated should note that this is the third part of a trilogy. Its focal point is special forces soldier Daniel, played by Altered Carbon star Will Yun Lee, a competent actor who manages to bring a modicum of charisma to his role. He can also actually fight, not that one would know it from the way this is shot. As the opening credits roll over familiar scenes of spiky beige mountains under an oversaturated turquoise sky, we hear a voice informing Daniel and his colleagues that they have been chosen because they are the best in their countries at what they do. Their mission is to land in this desert and - using information acquired by Daniel when he was captured during the second film - find and defeat the sinister Black Mask organisation before it can make more dirty bombs.

Copy picture

A scene depicting this bomb-making is provided early on in one of the few concessions to new viewers. It's one of numerous scenes featuring the Scientist (Marwan Naji) and the Supreme Leader (Essam Ferris), who have apparently known one another for years yet never address each other by name and always feel the need to spell out things they should both already be familiar with. Something most professionals learn early on is that what makes good writing is as much about what one leaves out as what one keeps in, yet this is apparently beyond the wit of scribe Michael Day, whose characters repeat themselves over and over in slightly different ways. Upon hearing the line "Some day all of this will be over," one is tempted to scream "I don't care about your war, just let that be true of this scene!"

If the writing is bad, the direction is worse. Some very nice equipment has been used here; occasional shots reveal great depth of field and some difficult lighting challenges are surmounted. The drone work is also good. It's the framing, however, which looks as if it has been done by a young chimpanzee picking up a camera for the first time (in fact, there's better work on YouTube actually shot by animals). One of Mike Gunther's favourite tricks is to focus up close on a actor's face and then just circle round with the background out of focus to simulate disorientation. This goes on for so long that it becomes comedic. In the fight scenes the focus is all on upper limbs so that we have no real idea what the actors' bodies are doing, and on top of this, the whole thing is so choppily edited that we get no sense of the skill involved at all. The result is a series of conflicts completely devoid of tension.

The gun combat scenes are, if anything, worse. Characters run through fields of fire all the time in such a clumsy way that they may as well don fluorescents and walk, yet nothing hits them. The sets they have to run around look like they've been borrowed from combat games rather than inspired by real bases, with random walls everywhere just high enough to provide cover and with tunnel networks that serve no apparent function other than as a place to get lost.

So why the extra half star? The acting is mostly adequate, the cast straining to do something with what they've got (even if Katie Keene could give Priti Patel a run for her money in the inappropriate smirking department). Clearly, some of those involved cared - there are just so many problems here that it's beyond saving. One suspects that the titular nation died of boredom.

Reviewed on: 05 Apr 2020
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Rogue Warfare: Death Of A Nation packshot
The Black Mask Organisation coordinates a twisted plot which will devastate the world within the next 36 hours.

Director: Mike Gunther

Writer: Mike Gunther

Starring: Will Yun Lee, Jermaine Love, Rory Markham, Bertrand-Xavier Corbi, Katie Keene, Fernando Chien

Year: 2020

Runtime: 85 minutes

BBFC: 15 - Age Restricted

Country: US

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