MJ Bassett Top Five Action Movie Influences

With explosive set-pieces and a horde of rampaging wild animals, former wildlife photographer MJ  Basset (Deathwatch, Solomon Kane, Ash vs. Evil Dead) delivers a killer slice of action cinema, with a shrewd critique of poaching and the black-market animal trade, in Rogue.

Battle-hardened mercenary Samantha O’Hara (Megan Fox, Transformers franchise) leads an elite squad of soldiers on a daring mission to rescue a hostage from a group of violent terrorists in the plains of Africa. But when the mission goes wrong, the team is stranded and Samantha’s squad must face a bloody, brutal encounter with the ferocious gang of rebels, and a ravenous, enraged lioness that is baying for their blood after escaping from an illegal lion farm.

To celebrate the release of Rogue on Digital Download now and DVD on 16 November, director MJ Bassett tells us her top five action movie influences…. Strap yourself for a bumpy ride!


The film that blew my mind when I was young was Terminator 2. I think James Cameron is the best action director ever. Even when he’s making Titanic, the action sequences are incredible, and the action sequences in Avatar are incredible, even if you don’t necessarily love the narratives. With Terminator 2, it was the synthesis of incredible modern technology and the brilliance of character within action, which I think is the key to everything. So there’s no point, even in Rogue for instance, there’s no point blowing stuff up if the characters around the explosion aren’t of consequence. You’re always trying to drive character and action at the same time. That’s the thing.


I would say First Blood is another action movie, which I really, really like. Again, this one is very character driven, and so the subsequent Rambo movies meant nothing to me, because they’re just kinetic, pointless, cartoony action. Whereas in First Blood when you meet John Rambo, he’s got a reason, he’s got an existence and some of the action sequences are fantastic in there. It’s also a wilderness-driven action movie and I like to shoot out in the wild. Rogue is a movie in the wilds of Africa, First Blood takes place in the Pacific Northwest. Getting out there in the environment is what I like to do. So that’s that one.


The next one, I would say is an interesting one which people wouldn’t necessarily class as an action movie, but I think has some absolutely extraordinary action sequences, is Saving Private Ryan. The first 20-minutes of the movie are this extraordinary, breathless assault on the beach. It’s one of the best choreographed war sequences I’ve ever seen. Not to in any way compare myself to the brilliance of Saving Private Ryan, but the first 20 minutes of Rogue are pretty much one breathless action sequence. You’re trying to put the audience in a psychological state of exhaustion, and so by the time you get to take that first breath, it’s like the soldiers have taken the beach at Dunkirk. You’re just so exhausted and grateful for respites. That’s what Rogue kind of does as well in the same way.

THE RAID (2011)

Another one I like is The Raid. Gareth Evans made this incredibly choreographed action movie that for me is a slightly different kind of balletic use of action choreography; creatively, utterly unrealistic in every way. But admirable for how he put it together, how he shot it, how he choreographed it, working with some of the best stunt people. It’s notable that The Raid was shot over, I think, a year over weekends and evenings. And that’s the time to come up with those ideas, and the stunt team was absolutely incredible. So I look at them, I look at The Raid and go, ‘I would never make that’. My sensibility for action and fighting choreography is less balletic. I like it to be more kind of visceral, and just brutal rather than choreographed, but when I watch it I’m in awe of what Gareth managed to achieve. I think he’s an absolutely incredibly talented filmmaker and I love his work.


And then finally the greatest modern action movie is Mad Max: Fury Road, which is just one action sequence basically. You watch that and the choreography and the precision of movement within that, and the way that these very complex sequences – you can track the action all the way through because it was storyboarded and not scripted. You can tell it’s almost an entirely visual medium. And so you look at something like Mad Max: Fury Road and go, Okay, that’s how you do it. That’s how one aspires to shoot. Coincidentally it was shot in Africa, where I shot Rogue. Actually some of my stunt team worked on Mad Max, so all I ended up doing in the evenings was asking for anecdotes about working on that movie. But George Miller had pretty much two years to shoot it and I had 21 days to shoot mine… so pretty sure that’s the only difference!

Rogue is on Digital Download now and DVD 16 November from Lionsgate UK

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