Black Rose is a movie plucked right out of the 80s or early 90s. Two unlikely partners team up to crack a case with the odds definitely not in their favor. For those looking for original material, Black Rose is going to feel entirely too familiar.
Russian prostitutes are getting killed in Los Angeles. With the regular detective units striking out, Captain Frank Dalano (a slumming Robert Davi, Licence to Kill) reaches out to his Moscow counterparts for assistance. They send Police Major Vladimir Kazatov (director Alexander Nevsky pulling double duty).
Vladimir doesn’t let too many Russian stereotypes pass him by. If Black Rose were played more for laughs, it would be the Russian equivalent to Rush Hour. That probably would have made for a more enjoyable viewing experience. Played straight, the film proves too serious to be any fun and any humor that results is largely unintentional.
The weirdest aspect of the film was why the Russian police major was wearing a Civil War winner runner-up decal on his car. Vladimir doesn’t deal too well with criminals e.g. the would be purse snatcher he guns down. Nevsky plays Vladimir so flat he comes off like a Rocky IV leftover.
After running off a couple of potential partners, Vlad is assigned Emily Smith (Kristanna Loken, Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines), a newbie who hasn’t gotten a chance to become jaded yet. It says a lot about the film where Loken, who isn’t exactly renowned for her acting, is the second best performer. To her credit, Loken tries to bring some life to the film, but she’s surrounded by talent that can’t keep up.
But flat acting doesn’t have to crumple up Black Rose. It could have been salvaged with better writing or at least some good intense action. Both are in desperately short supply here.
Screenwriters Brent Huff and Greg Saunders definitely aren’t trying to reinvent the genre here. Take along a Crime Movie Bingo sheet and you could win in multiple directions. Huff and Saunders try and work in a cat and mouse mystery with the killer taunting Vladimir and Emily, but it fails to generate much suspense. Viewers only paying moderate attention should easily figure out the killer.
The film probably could have flowed better if there was an investment in the characters beyond cracking the case. The final scene where Vlad asks Emily out seems to come from out of nowhere.
Nevsky doesn’t offer much help on the directorial front either. The jarring edits are distracting and he seems disinterested in truly establishing a connection with Vladimir and Emily. Nevsky only seems truly engaged in shooting the numerous torture scenes that come off gratuitous. After the first few murders, Nevsky made his point, but painstakingly detailing the torture process becomes tiresome. It’s less riveting and far more unsettling for the point of being gory.
Black Rose tries to capture that buddy feel of 80s/90s films, but lacks any of the charm or thrills to feel fresh. Maybe you won’t turn it off if you stumble across it on TV, but there’s no reason to hunt it down. Leave this rose on the vine.
Rating: 3 out of 10
Photo Credit: ITN Distribution