Endangered Species (2021)

A family fights both nature and evil humans in this follow-up to Rogue from director MJ Bassett.

The Healey family are heading to Africa for a much-needed family vacation. They consist of matriarch Lauren, patriarch Jack, daughter Zoe, and son Noah. Zoe’s boyfriend Billy has also been invited much to the chagrin of Jack, who feels Zoe has become more reckless since dating Billy. Lauren feels Zoe is trying to find herself and Billy is a good fit for her. When they arrive, they plan to go on a safari but once they land, tensions already begin to run high between the members of family, all led by Jack revealing he has been put on administrative leave due to an oil spill resulting by miscalculations during his last project.

That soon becomes the least of their problems. The day they go on their safari, Jack decides to finally let loose, and the family goes off road in their rental car. When Lauren sees her dream animal of a baby rhino, they encounter the baby’s mother, who rams the car and injures the group. Lauren, a diabetic, learns her insulin was destroyed in the wreckage and could go into a coma in eight hours. As if that’s not enough, the family soon find themselves besieged by a leopard and a pack of hyenas in the area. The family attempts to overcome the laws of nature in order to get help.

Last year, M.J. Bassett’s Rogue may have been more than an against-type cast role for lead Megan Fox. It was a genre action thriller that had a message about lion poaching, which was the intention for director Bassett. Following up on that, this film is her second film in what can be called her “ecological action thriller” series. Here, Bassett and daughter Isabel (who also co-wrote Rogue) have the same intention and meshed in an original story by Paul Chronnell, bringing in a message about poaching rhinos and other animals, as well as use a real-life experience as the catalyst for our film’s central protagonists, the Healey family.

What is more intriguing is the diverse characterizations of the family dynamic as each have different personalities. Rebecca Romijn’s matriarch Lauren attempts to be the glue that holds the family together and suffers from diabetes, a factor in the survival mode of the film. Philip Winchester’s Jack is a business-minded, overbearing, bullying father whose recent job loss causes him to act more like a Scrooge and a bully. Isabel Bassett is the strong-willed, tough Zoe, who is trying to find herself and is in a relationship with the hippie-like Billy, played by Chris Fisher. As for Michael Johnston’s Noah, he feels like he’s the outcast not because he is gay, but because he always finds himself targeted by his father’s bullying and Zoe’s talkback. Thankfully, Noah becomes a strong confident character as the film goes on.

It is when the film’s catalyst begins with the rhino ramming the car that the family not only must overcome the laws of nature but overcome their personal differences in a major fight for survival. There are some twists that bring Bassett’s message to mind. They mainly revolve around the ideas of poaching as well as the reasoning as to why Jack has been put on administrative leave. Jerry O’Connell, Romijn’s real-life husband, is introduced as a charming man named Mitch, who eventually re-appears and shows his true colors as an antagonist in the form of a poacher. The third act of the film becomes a major fight for survival against not nature, but against those responsible for the creatures who prey upon our family due to their actions.

Endangered Species is a step up from Rogue as it depicts a family in the biggest fight of survival against nature, poachers, and even themselves in the midst of things. A great ensemble cast highlights this genre film with a message.

WFG RATING: A-

Lionsgate Films presents a Grindhouse Entertainment production in association with Haskell Free Production, The Electric Shadow Company, and Blue Sky Pictures. Director: M.J. Bassett. Producers: M.J. Bassett, Molly Hassell, Kwemi Dickson, and Jay Taylor. Writers: M.J. Bassett and Isabel Bassett; based on an original story by Paul Chronnell. Cinematography: Brendan Barnes. Editing: Andrew MacRitchie.

Cast: Rebecca Romijn, Philip Winchester, Isabel Bassett, Michael Johnston, Jerry O’Connell, Chris Fisher, Brenda Ngeso, George Glenn Ouma, Aseem Sharma, Pritul Raithatha, Stephen Adogo.

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