One Rogue Reporter
Kino // Unrated // $24.95 // November 24, 2015
Review by Francis Rizzo III | posted May 27, 2016
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In 10 Words or Less
The demon prankster of Fleet Street

Reviewer's Bias*
Loves: Journalism, documentaries
Likes: Pranks
Dislikes: The business of journalism
Hates: Tabloids

The Movie
As someone who has studied, practiced and taught journalism, to say that its current state in America is dismaying is a severe understatement. And as a New Yorker, that dismay only intensifies each time I see the cover of The New York Post, the closest thing America has to the exploitative tabloids that Britain has mastered like some sort of perverse art. It's only the existence of the British press that keeps America's media from being able to crash through rock-bottom, because they are constantly establishing new lows, not the least of which was the phone hacking scandal that hit The News of the World, leading to that venerable paper's demise and the Leveson Inquiry, which essentially put the British media on public trial in 2011 and 2012.

That's the focus of One Rogue Reporter, a quick 62-minute documentary of sorts from Rich Peppiatt (aided by editor and co-director Tom Jenkinson.) Peppiatt was, at one time, one of the bad guys, working on over-the-top stories for The Daily Star, which led him to, among other things, dress like a woman and as Santa Claus. However, his paper's increasingly anti-Muslim bent (not unusual amongst British tabloids) drove him to resign, and he took up a different profession: comedy. However, his act is a pointed one, as he uses pranks to illustrate the hypocrisy and flat-out lies of those in charge of the British press--pranks collected in this film.

Certainly, if you know the players, the film means a bit more, but the analogues to American media are there and it's not so foreign that it's not easy to catch on. Awful people treat people awfully, then lie about it. It's a universal story. There's just not always Peppiatt there to try and call out those awful people, as he does here, armed with dildos, massive projected porn films, illicit text messages and security footage of media members being naughty. Because most Americans won't know about a Martin Clark or a Paul Dacre, the film is enlightening, introducing audiences to ready-made villains and watching them get some small measure of comeuppance.

Peppiatt (who looks a bit like a British Seth MacFarlane) is a cheeky fellow, who obviously enjoys tweaking those who abuse their power, and his personality goes a long way toward powering this short film, which combines the pranks (presented in handy, almost Kill Bill-like chapters) with interviews featuring people in and around British media, including actors Hugh Grant and Steve Coogan, creating a well-paced, stylish course in the recent history of British tabloids. (The use of clips from a number of films about newspapers is a nice touch as well.) Even for someone who has some understanding of this corner of the journalistic universe, there was plenty that was educational, while always being entertaining.

One Rogue Reporter arrives on one DVD, which is packed into a standard-width keepcase. The disc offer an animated anamorphic widescreen menu with options to play the film, select scenes and check out the extras. There are no audio options and no subtitles but closed captioning is included.

The Quality
The anamorphic widescreen transfer here delivers what's very much a documentary image, with saturation that's a touch muted and slightly less than optimal contrast, but the level of fine detail is solid and the image is crisp for the most part. One Rogue Reporter makes use of a lot of different video sources, including a good deal of archival material, and though you can certainly see a difference throughout, nothing is problematic. There are no notable concerns about digital distractions.

The Dolby Digital 2.0 track here is enough for this documentary, ensuring that all voices are clearly heard and they enjoy proper separation from the occasional music (which is strong and stands on its own.) The mix is center-balanced, with nothing notably dynamic.

The Extras
The extras start with a brief interview with Hugh Grant (4:07), some of which is in the movie proper. The main thrust of this conversation is his relationship with the paparazzi and his acceptance of his lack of privacy, though he also expresses his dismay over how non-celebrities are affected by tabloid media.

A 15:20 Q&A from a 2014 London screening features Peppiatt, Grant, Nick Davies and Kate Smurthwaite, and is one of the more thoughtful and insightful such exchanges, as the participants ruminate on the nature of the press and the idea of freedom of the press. It's an excellent, if too-short complement to the main feature.

Also included in the film's enticing 1:59 trailer.

The Bottom Line
Though it has a slightly lesser impact on audiences unfamiliar with the world of British tabloids, with One Rogue Reporter, Rich Peppiatt clearly lays out the problems in the papers and enacts a slight bit of revenge on the men responsible for them. Though in the end, it doesn't mean a great deal, it's satisfying to see these garbage people stumble, even if only a bit. The DVD looks and sounds fine, and offers a few brief, but interesting extras. If you have any interest in journalism, or in seeing pretentious, lying bastards getting harassed with marital aids, this film is well worth a look.

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