I’m still making a case for the work of MJ Bassett, whose Solomon Kane is a favourite fantasy film of mine, and who seems to have found a very specific mojo in making films set against a background of poaching in Africa. Fortunately, Bassett is very clearly against the horrific environmental effects of this on-going problem; after Rogue, which saw Megan Fox leading a commando team into a lion-infested wasteland, Endangered Species sees Rebecca Romijn trying to protect her family from both big-game hunters and angry wild-life, making her family the endangered species of the title.
Like Rogue, this is a B movie, but not without merit. Robert (Phillip Winchester) arrives in Kenya having just lost his lucrative oil-pipeline job. He’s not yet told his wife Andi (Romijn) or their teenage family, and is hoping to conceal that the big bucks that paid for the holiday have run dry. When a safari costs more than expected, Robert decides to deliver the same value, but on the cheap when it comes to safety, cutting corners puts the family in conflict with a family of rhinos, hyenas, and eventually a deadly bunch of poachers led by Jerry O’Connell.
Like Rogue, Endangered Species sometimes bites off a little more than it can chew in terms of CGI animals, with the same kind of patchy results. But outdoorsy thriller like this demand that kind of action, and Bassett does well with the family dynamics, the fading patriarch, the snotty but determined teens, and the environmental politics. There’s an underlying rage about the way that animals are being mutilated for no purpose other than the misguided notion that humans are in some way superior to the natural environment we’ve come from; the vain-glorious act of hunting in itself disproves any notions of human superiority.
Endangered Species is a time-passer with elements of Roar and other nature-gone-wild-flicks. But Bassett recognises that it’s not nature that’s gone wild, it’s us, and while these two films are ‘entertainments’ in the sense that Graham Greene meant, they’re also determinedly delivering a message that most of us can get behind. Big game hunting is a singularly unappealing subject, and Bassett deserves applause for making two quite different films focused on changing that unhappy reality.
Lionsgate presents Endangered Species on Digital Download 28 June and DVD 5 July. Thanks to Lionsgate for advanced access to this title.