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Black Rose Review

May 27, 2017 | Posted by Bryan Kristopowitz
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Black Rose Review  

Black Rose Review

Alexander Nevsky– Vladimir Kazatov
Kristanna Loken– Emily Smith
Adrian Paul– Matt Robinson
Robert Davi– Captain Frank Malano
Robert Madrid– Antonio Banuelos
Oksana Sidorenko– Sandra
Emmanuil Vitorgan– Colonel Gromov
Olga Rodionova– Natalya
Mathias Hues– Black Mask Killer

Directed by Alexander Nevsky
Screenplay by Brent Huff and George Saunders

Distributed by ITN Distribution

Not Rated
Runtime– 83 minutes


Black Rose is a 2014 Russian box office smash that recently received a North American theatrical and Video On Demand release by ITN Distribution. Directed by and starring international action star Alexander Nevsky, it’s both a buddy cop action flick and a “cops hunting a ruthless serial killer” movie with a bit of an international flavor. It’s a bit peculiar at times, but its cast, look, and energy more than make up for any story shortcomings. In fact, Black Rose is one of the best looking low budget action movies in recent memory.

Nevsky is Major Vladimir Kazatov, a badass cop for the Moscow Police Department. After foiling a major bank robbery in broad daylight, where we see Kazatov take on a gang of killers led by the incomparable Mathias Hues in full on ruthless bastard mode, Kazatov is loaned out to the Los Angeles Police Department to help track down a serial killer that targets Russian women. LAPD Captain Frank Dalano (the great Robert Davi) is disappointed with his local crew’s progress and figures that a Russian cop will help his investigators better understand the Los Angeles Russian immigrant community. Detective Matt Robinson (Adrian Paul), the lead investigator, isn’t too keen on the idea of bringing in outside help, but since Dalano is the boss he ends up going along with his boss’ plan. When Kazatov arrives in LA he is teamed up with Detective Antonio Banuelos (Nevsky movie regular and producer Robert Madrid), but that partnership lasts less than half a day after Kazatov takes out two street punks with extreme prejudice right in front of him (they were robbing a woman on the street. What the hell else was Kazatov supposed to do?). Not wanting to get killed so close to retirement, Banuelos walks away from Kazatov with Dalano’s blessing. Dalano has a potentially better partner for Kazatov. Detective Emily Smith (Kristanna Loken).

Detective Smith is a rookie investigator with profiling experience and seems to hit it off with Kazatov immediately. Kazatov and Smith canvas the Russian are of Los Angeles, publicly interrogating a local bakery owner who specializes in some kind of fish pastry that Russian immigrants love for some reason. Kazatov figures that the bakery owner knows more about the killings than he’s willing to divulge and uses his powers of persuasion (the dude is gigantic and is willing to slam your head into the counter if he thinks you’re messing with him) to obtain the information he needs. Smith isn’t necessarily down with Kazatov’s interrogation tactics, but this is her first big case, the killings are brutal, and they need answers.

After some bonding time at a local café, Kazatov and Smith check out a dance club frequented by the kind of Russian women that seem to be the killer’s targets. They check out a local dance club frequented by the kind of Russian women the killer targets and, after scaring the club owner and some of the club’s employees (well, maybe “scare” is too strong a word. Unsettle?), the serial killer’s pattern changes. The killer no longer focusses on Russian women. The killer starts taking out anyone in his way.

The rest of the movie is a cat and mouse deal where Kazatov and Smith go after the killer, the killer directly contacts Kazatov and Smith, and we find out that the serial killer isn’t just some random psycho with a penchant for destroying Russian women. There’s something far more sinister going on. And the whole “putting a black rose in the dead woman’s mouth” thing? It’s messed up.

What I love most about Black Rose is that it never tries to be anything more than an action thriller. It doesn’t try to “elevate the genre” or any of that pretentious nonsense. It’s happy trying to be entertaining, and for the most part it succeeds. Would it have been cool if the movie was a little more spectacular, with bigger fights or stunts or gun battles? Sure. But Black Rose doesn’t have the resources of a Fast and Furious sequel. It has to keep things a little more low-key, which makes its spectacular moments that much more powerful. Nevsky, a first time director here, knows how to keep the story moving. There are some nifty character moments sprinkled throughout the movie, but the focus is on the case.

The movie actually looks amazing. The picture is slick and clean and the locations, both in Russia and in California, all look great, even the scenes of abject poverty. It would be interesting to find out how much, percentage wise, is actually California and how much is actually Russia. The LAPD police station is one of the least spectacular looking police stations I think I’ve ever seen in an action movie, especially one that takes place in Los Angeles. There’s none of the usual hustle and bustle that’s always been commonplace in movies and on TV. The police station looks like a doctor’s office. And that’s a cool idea. It almost seems, for the lack of a better word, “realistic.” Captain Dalano’s office could use some new furniture, but he doesn’t look like the kind of guy who is going to requisition new furniture for his office. As long as the desk is still a desk that stands up, what the hell does he need a new one for?

The action scenes are generally well staged and exciting. The opening bank robbery is a high tension affair that is freaky due to Mathias Hues shooting everything in sight, and Kazatov’s solution for the robbery is exactly the kind of thing a movie like Black Rose needs to have. This sequence does feel a tad rushed, but I like how it’s so violent that you don’t mind if ending quickly. It has to be that way. There are also some nifty shootouts later on that will get your blood pumping.

The serial killer scenes are pretty dang brutal and nasty. The blood flows, there’s a scene with a small saw that will make you cringe, and the actual blood looks pretty good. The practical blood, that is. There are a few obvious CGI gunshot wounds that don’t really jibe with the “real” blood in other scenes, but since the gun battles are brutal affairs in and of themselves it isn’t that big of a deal.

Kazatov’s entrance is a great little homage to Cobra. The only thing Kazatov is missing is a leather jacket and a stick match in his teeth. The badass guitar theme that accompanies Kazatov is also the kind of theme I wish more action movies had.

Now, the movie is a bit strange in a few respects. The movie never explains how an LAPD captain can just request a Russian detective to show up and help investigate something in Los Angeles without getting the State Department involved. Does Davi’s character have some sort of in with higher ups in the U.S. government? And wouldn’t Russian authorities in the United States, like the Russian ambassador, freak the hell out if a Russian cop killed people within minutes of arriving in America? And why wouldn’t the local media be all over the serial killing case? Shouldn’t someone be worried about a potential international incident of some sort?

The movie also doesn’t explore the entirety of the local Russian immigrant community in Los Angeles. Besides the bakery and the dance club, what other full of Russian stuff is in town?

Don’t get me wrong here. In the big scheme of things, these are just minor quibbles. Tracking down and finding out who the killer is is ultimately the most important thing, and the movie does that just fine.

The performances are good across the board. Nevsky is charismatic as hell as Kazatov. He’s a big guy, a tough guy, but he also has a sensitivity that makes him likable. You believe he could be a badass cop.

Loken does a fine job as Emily Smith. She’s believable as a newbie detective with a cerebral edge (it’s the profiling thing). She has good buddy chemistry with Nevsky and you believe they could be partners. Loken also has a few nice light moments, like when she does a “Valley Girl” imitation and when she attempts to eat one of those fish pastry things. Loken, as you’d expect her to, handles her action scenes like a pro. And check out the way she drops her gun at the end. Think about how her character isn’t all that experienced working the streets as a detective. What she does with the gun is totally believable.

Adrian Paul is surprisingly stiff as Detective Robinson, but then he’s supposed to be kind of stiff. Robinson is kind of a jerk, actually. I mean, look at his short sleeve dress shirt he wears in the one scene. Only a jerk wears a shirt like that.

Robert Davi is fairly subdued as Captain Dalano. He isn’t as openly intense as we’ve seen him in the past, but then Dalano is in charge of the operation. He has to keep his natural intensity in check because otherwise he’d be yelling at people non-stop and karate chopping everyone’s desk (and he isn’t even a martial artist). I also want to say that very few people can rock a hat like Robert Davi.

And then there’s Mathias Hues as the bank robber. The guy is terrifying. His behavior in the bank makes you wonder what the hell he does when he isn’t robbing banks with his crew of heavily armed henchmen (he’s probably hunting bears with his bare hands). If he wanted to I bet he could kick a guy’s head off. Awesome stuff.

So what would a Black Rose 2 look like? There are only two options that I can see at the moment. A part 2 will either have to be Kazatov going to some other American city to help the locals, or it will have to take place in Moscow, bring Loken and Davi overseas, and feature Mathias Hues playing the twin brother of his bank robber character looking for revenge. Or something like that.

Black Rose is a pretty dang good little action movie. It doesn’t try to be any more than it is, it has a good cast, a decent enough story, and, above all else, looks great. It’s worth tracking down and checking out. Redbox has it, and Netflix will apparently have it in July.

See Black Rose. See it, see it, see it.

So what do we have here?

Dead bodies: 10+

Explosions: One.

Nudity?: None.

Doobage: Stalking, a locked gate, hand gagging, a kick ass opening theme, multiple black roses, attempted bank robbing, guard killing, serious machine gun hooey, alarm hooey, a masked SWAT team, multiple threats of death, a total lack of interest in listening to the authorities, exploding cop car, multiple shootouts, the ocean, traffic, a not all that fancy American police station, a street mugging, face cutting, mild police brutality, surveillance, some serious throat slitting, talking about the case in a car, an after-hours club search, a brief club shootout, tire slashing, killing over the phone, early morning coffee, a nervous breakdown, a flashback, an abandoned factory somewhere, torture, multiple blasts to the chest, and a worthwhile ending.

Kim Richards?: Threatened.

Gratuitous: Crime scene photos of a murdered woman, Adrian Paul, black roses, Robert Davi, Moscow, a guy on a dirt bike, Mathias Hues, Mathias Hues wearing a plastic mask, a Humvee, people speaking Russian, a background picture of Russian President Vladimir Putin and Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev, the Capital Records building, Robert Madrid, talk of body surfing, tofu alfalfa seaweed smoothies, a Russian prostitute being tortured, Kristanna Loken, a “Valley Girl” interlude, Alexander Nevsky drinking orange juice, talk of serial killers, Robert Davi drinking coffee, people saying “with all due respect,” talk of the afterlife, 88.5 KCSN- celebrate the music, and Robert Davi wearing a hat like only Robert Davi can.

Best lines: “Black rose. This is our guy,” “You’re brave or really stupid,” “Her name is Polina. I will kill her in three minutes,” “California. California,” “Probably don’t get to see an ocean often?,” “Ocean was so nice,” “Who is this guy?,” “I’m sorry but do you have anything bigger?,” “Vladimir! What the hell are you doing? Sorry,” “Don’t be late again, Emily,” “L.A. is quite the melting pot, huh?,” “What does it mean, Valley Girl?,” “What did he say? He said you have beautiful eyes. Yeah, I’m sure that’s what he said,” “Do you drink anything other than orange juice?,” “I thought you were big,” “Vlad, what happened to your partner in Moscow?,” “So, this is how you do things in Russia? No, this is how I do things,” “Bang bang, you’re dead,” “Bye, Sandra,” “I can’t lose a partner,” “You sonfoabitch!,” “That is not good,” “Did you know you can create a fake black rose?,” “It’s you,” “No one is going to die. Don’t lie to her you whore,” “Don’t try and profile me, Emily,” and “Was I a good wing man, Vlad?”

The final score: review Very Good
The 411
Black Rose is a decent little action thriller featuring a good cast, a decent story, and a great look. First time director Alexander Nevsky does an outstanding job and shows why he’s a modern action star. Black Rose is worth tracking down and checking out. See it.