Despite actors amassing considerable acclaim over their careers with carefully calculated role choices, sometimes they just have to take a pay cheque because the work is there and the money is good. Such is the case with John Malkovich and his latest effort, Rogue Hostage.
The two-time Academy Award nominated actor has sporadically offset his serious, character-based performances with dips in blockbuster fare over his career – meaning Dangerous Liaisons and In The Line of Fire sit alongside Jonah Hex and Transformers: Dark of the Moon – but Rogue Hostage probably takes the cake for the most phoned in, bottom-of-the-barrel material he’s attached himself to.
The “lone hero taking on villainous terrorists” has long been a trope the action genre has embraced (thanks Die Hard) and if the ingredients are attractive enough, such imitations can still manage to be enjoyable, in spite of all their predictability. Rogue Hostage however, even with Malkovich and a capable action lead in Tyrese Gibson, does everything in such a joyless fashion that it can’t even muster simplistic thrills in a “so bad it’s good” type of way.
Before we get to the cat-and-mouse portion of the film where, rather surprisingly, Malkovich is not the big bad in charge, Jon Keeyes‘ uneventful actioner focuses on Kyle Snowden (Gibson, delivering a gruff performance that’s miles away from the mega-wattage energy he displays in the Fast & Furious series), an ex-Marine suffering from PTSD and now working for child protective services.
Him being an advocate for all things child safety and having a strained relationship with his businessman step-father (Malkovich’s Sam Nelson) means the Mickey Solis-penned script will utilise both when they’re held hostage in a department store. Oh, and this department store is owned by the smarmy Malkovich, because you gotta have symmetry, right?
Though Malkovich’s character has all the trappings of a power-hungry villain, it’s actually the suitably-named Eagan Raize (Chris Backus) who’s overthrowing properties, relaying his grudge with Nelson as a reason; we learn that Nelson has gotten away with some criminal activities and the disgruntled Eagan wants him to publicly confess.
It all very much travels where you expect it to, and even then it fails to entertain due to the fact that every note it hits is alarmingly flat. Malkovich manages to not entirely embarrass himself, despite this material, but Gibson looks tired and like he wants to be anywhere else – which doesn’t help us get on board with our supposed hero – and Backus is an excruciatingly dull villain whose not even afforded some cheesy dialogue to offset his vanilla framing.
Though I’m aware of the irony in asking for a little substance in such a film, Rogue Hostage seems almost determined to make itself as void of thrills and entertainment as possible. There’s capable performers on hand and the 30-odd names attached as either producers or executive producers is enough to lure you in with a false sense of contentment, but, almost defiantly, they’ve worked in unison to forge a clumsy, forgettable film that’s best left as a slain victim.
ONE AND A HALF STARS (OUT OF FIVE)
Rogue Hostage will be available in North America on demand and digital and in limited theatrical release from June 11th, 2021. An Australian release is yet to be determined.