Thursday 6 April 2023

ON SBS-TV - Rod Bishop warns about ROGUE HEROES (Sc: Stephen Knight, Dir: Tom Shankland, UK, 2022)

Connor Swindells, Rogue Heroes

For show creator Stephen Knight,
 Rogue Heroes is his view of the origins of the British SAS - lawless, viral macho killers with virtually no wartime morality, motivated solely by killing and then killing some more in order to defeat Rommel and his Panzers in North Africa. 

If you miss the point of all the anarchistic, authority-hating viciousness (and how could you?), there’s at least eight loud AC/DC numbers along with Black Sabbath, Judas Priest, Motörhead and a range of British punk from the 1970s and 1980s, to put you in the right mood. 

It’s like watching the wartime equivalent of British soccer crowds. Nationalistic Brit “wolf-warriors” in the North African campaign - well done, those boys!

The Brits lost up to 35,000 during the 3-year engagement, but there were also some allies there. Here they are only mentioned in blink-and-you’ll-miss-it moments. The SAS lads steal Australian food and other supplies. And in the case of the New Zealanders, the Brits sneak in under the cover of darkness after the moon has set to pinch the Kiwis’ desert army vehicles and other fighting kit.

A couple of Australians appear in early scenes and are prepared to take on the SAS leader Stirling (known as the “Phantom Major”) in a Cairo bar, but quickly turn tail and meekly depart after Stirling runs through a list of the ways he can kill.

The Americans arrive (“About time!”) but we never actually see one. 

And the Scots are reduced to Cairo street-brawlers, left unconscious in their kilts in dusty alleyways. A Barmy Army chorus singing “Jerusalem” is all that’s missing, but it might have been in there somewhere, drowned out by AC/DC.

As for any mention of the Rats of Tobruk, dug in and holding the town against superior forces for eight months with 3,000 casualties, they are not even remotely on Stephen Knight’s radar.

It’s the sort of series where ten minutes is probably enough to get the hang of it, because not much will change – it stays essentially one-note throughout. The SAS mantra “Who Dares Wins” crops up to replace “Go.Kill.Return.Go Again” and, at the end, an Irishman known as “Paddy” (of course) declares “Now the blood will flow”.

I guess he, at least, is looking forward to a second series.

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