A Russian Police Major is enlisted by the LAPD to help solve a series of gruesome murders perpetrated against young women by a sadistic sociopathic killer on the mean streets of Hollywood.
April 28th, 2017
Call me easy. No, not that kind of easy. Easy as far as this: You present me with some ‘80s movie nostalgia and regardless of how good or bad your film may be, you’ve probably hooked me. Blast those formative years!
Despite the fact that there wasn’t one original bone in the entirety of its body and despite the fact that there were oodles of problems (to be catalogued below), the new indie crime thriller Black Rose was an absolutely entertaining hoot.
A vicious serial killer in the City of Angels (Los Angeles) has been targeting and butchering young Russian beauties – and most of them are working girls. Since the deaths continue to occur, the cases remain unsolved and the murderer is still at large, the LAPD – headed by Captain Dalano (busy character actor Robert Davi) brings in a Russian police officer and decorated military veteran Vladimir Kazatov (Russian bodybuilding and fitness celeb; Alexander Nevsky – who also directs here) to attain a better connection with the tight-lipped Russian community – in the hopes of getting some better leads on the case. Kazatov is paired up with rookie profiler Emily Smith (Terminator 3’s Kristanna Loken) and the two search high and low in all of Los Angeles to find their killer. Of course, the killer takes an interest in the two pursuers, and the hunters become the hunted.
Overall, the film looked pretty good (including several scenes shot in Moscow!) What I found laughable, was how many drive-by shots of Hollywood and the surrounding areas the film used. Look, I get it. You found yourself a ton of great shots of LA hot-spots, landmarks and city streets. But practically every single transition was a mini-tourist video on its own. At some point, it starts to feel like some kind of boastful filler – screaming, “look how authentic we are and how much footage we took”. Dialing this back a bit would have worked wonders.
In the performance categories, Nevsky has about as much charisma as a young Arnold Schwarzenegger in the original The Terminator, with the heavy accent to match it. His performance is robotic, but I’m going to suppose that this was a choice (see my ‘80s comments below). He lumbers along, with only a few smiles to his scene partners offering any real authenticity or appeal.
The film is a short 80 or so minutes, so the fact that Loken’s Emily Smith shows up at the half hour mark – meaning she gets about 50 minutes of screen-time to create a lead character – well, she feels short-changed. And since Loken is actually very intriguing to watch, it’s a bummer that the best actor in the ensemble doesn’t find an introduction until so late in the run time. Loken is a beauty and a natural actor and she should be getting more high-profile work. And even with so much terrible dialogue to wade through, she still manages to make it work.
As for that dialogue, it can be atrocious, but it somehow works within the story and world the filmmakers have created. More than once we get the obligatory police station politics, where an underling disagrees with their superior – “With all due respect, Captain…” Nope.
No one gets much history. There’s the mention of Kazatov’s late partner (including an unnecessary flashback sequence) and literally one line of dialogue from Loken to offer up some of her character’s history. It’s not enough of course, but even with this complaint (as with the dialogue mentioned above) it’s sort of forgiveable.
The big reveal is no shock. There’s an attempt at potential other suspects, but you’ll see right through them. Once it’s revealed (in a strangely short and anti-climactic climax), you’ll simply say, “Just as I suspected.” Everything in the plot (including the big secret) is easy and convenient and mindless. And if that’s what you’re looking for (something which won’t challenge you in the slightest) watch Black Rose.
I was actually impressed with the make-up and gore effects. There’s a lot of on-screen blood-letting and it’s all done quite well. Not that it grossed me out, but the good quality did not distract (always a plus).
Even though it’s something of a mystery, you’ll never be crazily caught up in the nail-biting suspense (‘cause there is none) and it’s not as if you’re deeply invested in these characters anyway. But you’ll still go along for the ride. Perhaps – like me, the aforementioned nostalgia factor will play a big role in your potential enjoyment.
On that note, the film feels like one of those late night, “I caught it on HBO at 2am when I was a kid” cheese-ball films that you can’t help but enjoy, even if it’s about a shallow as the kiddie pool at your local YMCA. There’s absolutely nothing to it, but it still did what it set out to do – it entertains.
The score from Sean Murray evokes so many of the feelings inherent in action films of the ‘80s. There’s even some jazzy, sexy saxophone in there – which could have been pulled from any number of Van Damme cheapies of that era. With such a clear style – the powers-that-be had to have been going for this homage to those days of yesteryear. If so, I’ll say this: mission accomplished.
And finally, for you fans of the Highlander television series, Adrian Paul appears as another cop in the police department.
So even with the many reservations listed above, I’ll still give a recommendation to Black Rose. Despite that not terribly appetizing, just-above average score, you still might want to take a look.
Black Rose is scheduled for limited theatrical release on April 28th.