REVIEW: “Rogue Hostage” (2021)

“Fast and Furious” wisecracker Tyrese Gibson is handed a much more serious role leading the upcoming action-thriller “Rogue Hostage”. Jon Keyes directs from a story by screenwriter Mickey Solis. Their movie, set mostly in a Wal-Mart styled department store, starts out with glimmers of promise. But as the tropes start to pile up and the flimsiness of both the characters and the story is exposed, it quickly becomes evident that the film’s title isn’t the only thing that’s generic.

Gibson plays Kyle Snowden, a former Marine suffering from severe PTSD following a traumatic tour of duty in Afghanistan. Now he works for child protective services with his fellow caseworker and friend Clove (Brandi Bravo). Through a couple of vague information drops we learn that Kyle’s wife up and left him and their young daughter Angel (Zani Jones Mbayise). We never learn why, only that her departure has left Kyle in a tough spot.

Image Courtesy of Vertical Entertainment

Kyle’s stepfather, a wealthy local business owner named Sam Nelson (John Malkovich), doesn’t help much. He barely notices Kyle’s struggles, instead offering such unhelpful advice as “You need to find your purpose again.” The hard-to-read Nelson is much more interested in his bid for Congress, and with the election right around the corner optics are everything.

Of course in a movie like this you have to have a baddie and here we get it in the form of Eagan Raize, an angry militant type holding a pretty big grudge. He’s played by Christopher Backus who has both the look and demeanor that the role demands. His introduction is foreboding and frightening. It teases a ruthless and unstable antagonist, driven by something unseen and determined to see his personal mission through. Unfortunately like so much else in “Rogue Hostage”, he too becomes a shallow caricature and the kind of cookie-cutter villain you could plug into almost any movie of this type.

Image Courtesy of Vertical Entertainment

The story is kickstarted when Kyle and Clove rescue a young Mexican boy and stop by Sam’s store to get him something to eat. Inside Sam is prepping to shoot a new campaign ad making it the perfect time for Eagan and his two heavily armed cousins to barge in and take over the place. From there the movie turns into your prototypical hostage flick with Kyle trapped inside with an assortment of surface-level characters – the resourceful store manager Sunshine (Luna Lauren Vélez), a young shoplifter (Holly Taylor), Nelson’s self-absorbed press secretary (Susannah Hoffman) to name a few.

From there nothing about how “Rogue Hostage” plays out will surprise you. Despite hitting some pretty conventional beats, it sets itself up to be a fairly entertaining genre film. But soon all hints at originality start to unravel and it becomes your garden-variety hostage thriller with most of the clichés yet none of the thrills. And it tosses in so many themes yanked from today’s newspaper headlines. Income inequality, white supremacy, guns, the southern border, crony capitalism and more, all handled superficially and with no punch whatsoever. Just more frustration from this unfortunate misfire. “Rogue Hostage” opens tomorrow (June 11th) in select theaters and on VOD.


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