7 January 2019 | Pycal
Fredianelli and Lambert Deliver Another Western Win!
THE ROGUES OF FLAT OAK marks the much anticipated (for this reviewer anyway) re-team of director Michael Fredianelli and writer David Lambert to the Western genre. Their partnership previously gave us the 2011 Western THE SCARLET WORM which arguably stands as one of Fredianelli's most accomplished films as well as one of my favorite Western movies made of late. While ROGUES isn't quite as good as this earlier effort, it still edges in among my favorite Wild Dogs movies and lands a healthy spot on my list of top ten movies of 2018 (beating out many bigger budgeted and wider releases). In comparison to that afformentioned Wild Dogs Western effort, ROGUES is slightly slower paced and lacks the slick camera work or adrenaline filled visceral action scenes. However, where it falters in delivering those goods to fulfill my somewhat Joe Sixpack sensibilities, it exceeds when it comes to reinvigorating a genre that's often filled with tropes. Compared to WORM, it's a much brighter, bolder, colorful and quirky film. And while much of WORM took place in a brothel and had whores getting abortions, a lot of that movie's beats wouldn't seem too far out of place in a Randolph Scott movie. ROGUES on the other hand portrays the Old West much more from the angle of a period piece than Hollywood cowboy movie. The movie relishes in Victorian era style and culture and depicts the West as a more gaudy place where characters act less like John Wayne and more like European noblemen. Meanwhile, the movie takes some of the artsier touches WORM utilized and expands on them giving the movie a literary vibe full of character narration and cutaways. It's also framed much through the sense of a fictional historical re-telling and dime novel mythicism to the point that it expands on the oft explored theme of facts vs. legend when it comes to the so-called Wild West. So the movie very much deals with myth building and the tall tale type of boasting that surely gave rise to many an Old West legend.
As far as the production is concerned, ROGUES is a gorgeous looking movie which trades the vast dusty desert landscapes you might expect to see in a Western for forests, rolling green hills, wave battered beaches, atmospheric caves, and lively townships. The costuming is appropriately colorful and dapper with only some background players looking like they might be more at home at a contemporary rodeo outing than in the 19th century. Meanwhile, ROGUES is one of the best acted movies in the Wild Dogs catalog and the actors all do a convincing job of delivering dialog that sounds period authentic. Only thing that my ears picked up on immediately was when Fredianelli's character refers to the "Bowie" in his belt and I could imagine fans of the British glam rocker cheer while US history buffs cringe, but I'm nitpicking there. Wild Dogs newcomer Joseph Paul and lead co-star Todd Risby excel as the leads. Paul carries the film with a strong sense of swagger while Risby adds a more human touch grounding the movie with his character narration. There's a little bit of a Tonto/Lone Ranger dynamic between the two and the way Risby's character serves as our window into their world. Also standing out among the cast is the talented James Allen Brewer who is always a welcome face in a Wild Dogs joint. Here he's particularly memorable wearing the snazziest of duds and providing a little bit of comic relief as a wonderfully eccentric snake oil salesman.
In the end, ROGUES is a deeply satisfying film. It's plenty dense with a steady helping of memorable characters, themes, and locales with plenty of action sprinkled throughout what still amounts to a relatively smooth 90 min. running time. Definitely a movie I plan to pick up off my shelf for multiple spins!