At Home, BluRay/DVD Reviews

BLACK ROSE (eOne)

By • May 25th, 2017 •

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DVD review Roy Frumkes

The film’s Producer/Director/Star adopted the professional name Alexander Nevsky, and surely that triggers major memories for people of a certain age. I grew up and went through college studying Eisenstein’s work, and particularly the great battle on the ice in ALEXANDER NEVSKY (1938). Is adopting someone famous’s name in Russia a form of historical homage? It certainly got my attention.

This current Nevsky is a former champion body builder who has published nine books about physical fitness in Russia, as well as almost 500 articles. He’s 6’6” which puts him in rarified company, standing taller than Steven Seagal (6’4”, who was granted Russian citizenship in 2016), Sterling Hayden (6’5”), Christopher Lee (6’ 5”), Howard Stern (6’5”), Drag Queen Ru Paul (6’4”), Vince Vaughn (6’5”), Conan O’Brien (6’4”), Leonardo de Vinci (6’4”), Penn Jillette (6’5”), Tim Robbins (6’5”), Jeff Goldblum (6’4”), John Cleese (6’5”), Max von Sydow (6’4”), Anthony Bourdain (6’4”), Armie Hammer (6’5”), Fess Parker (6’5”), Dolph Lundgren (6’5”), and Chuck Connors (6’5 ½”) among others. There are a few taller than Nevsky, but very few.

In BLACK ROSE, Nevsky resists the common tropes of the genre by neither taking his shirt off nor engaging in a fist fight. He plays a character even more stoic than generally close-to-the-vest action stars such as Seagal, Lundgren, Charles Bronson, etc., and turns his performance on the clever dramatic device of letting a smile escape his terse countenance once in a while, making him sympathetic and no doubt delighting his fans. He plays a fish out of water here, a Russian cop sent to the US to weigh in on an apparent Russian serial killer. He may be a fish out of water, but all the denizens of the deep had better watch out when he’s around. He’s pretty much invincible.

As director, Nevsky seems stymied a bit by the first act, which is awkwardly edited. Maybe there were a couple hands too many in the process. But act two is refreshing and moves at a good pace. Cult actor Robert Davi is excellent as the beleaguered police chief who secretly welcomes Nevsky’s quick-on-the-trigger methodology. Kristanna Loken is engagingly competent in her role as his police sidekick who resents being retired from the case as the murders heat up. Best of all is a fascinating young actress named Oksana Sidorenko, who is introduced in this film. She has a form of delivery all her own, half bewildered, half-worried, and she’s just great. Hopefully those aren’t the only notes she can play, because if she has range, then she also has a ripe future ahead.

On display are the visual delights of Los Angeles. Whereas Seagal, Lundgren, Stallone and others of that ilk migrate to Romania to keep their budgets down, Nevsky came instead to LaLa Land, and makes the most of it.

The black rose of the title is kind of a Hitchcockian McGuffin. By the time we find out its significance, it has ceased to be important. And perhaps the reveal at the end is less than jaw-dropping. As filmmaker Bill (MANIAC – 1980) Lustig said recently, “You know, there are no great serial killers anymore. We had Son of Sam, Ted Bundy, The Hillside Strangler, Henry Lee Lucas, Wayne Williams, Jeffrey Dahmer, The Zodiac Killer and John Wayne Gacy. Who do you have today? Nobody. They don’t make serial killers like they used to.”

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