BLACK ROSE is a competently made, very formulaic movie about police trying to stop a serial killer who has been murdering immigrant women, leaving a black rose and a Russian-language note on each body. When the LAPD can’t seem to crack it they call in a specialist from Moscow, Vladimir Kazatov (Alexander Nevsky, MOSCOW HEAT), an ex-special forces cop getting the Chris-Tucker-in-RUSH-HOUR treatment from his bosses for his aggressive handling of a bank robbery (led by I COME IN PEACE alien Matthias Hues).
Actually, that’s one of the best parts. After strutting in with shades and no gun (electric guitars praising him on the score by Sean Murray [SCORPION]) he fails to talk them down, so he goes back outside, crashes a car through the window and shoots them all. Luckily no hostages are harmed.
In L.A. he buddies up with Detective Emily Smith (Kristanna Loken, TERMINATOR 3, MERCENARIES), and they have the usual getting-to-know-you cultural exchange. She mocks his Russian food, talks up American hamburgers, explains what a Valley Girl is, etc. Then she finds out his last partner died but he won’t talk about it but then they get close and they talk about it and they fight and make up and all that.
Also on the force are Robert Davi (DIE HARD) as the chief and Adrian Paul (Highlander: The Series) as another cop who’s a dick to them. They work together and the killer starts to take interest in them and target them and eventually they figure out who it is and what have you.
There are a few modest fights, mostly with guns. There’s the standard scene where Vladimir is left alone for a second and he thwarts two guys mugging a woman, but in this version he actually shoots them. In the first half hour of the movie he’s teamed with Detective Banuelos (producer/second unit director Robert Madrid) who comes back with their smoothies and finds Vladimir embracing a crying woman with two seemingly dead guys piled up on the trash (they later say one of them is only crippled).
“Is that how they do business in Russia?”
“No. That’s how I do business.”
The chief, in my opinion, goes too easy on him. To Banuelos’ credit, he correctly says this is crazy and refuses to work with Vladimir again.
The script is by George Saunders (PERFECT TARGET, THE HARD CORPS) and Brent Huff (an actor who was in NINE DEATHS OF THE NINJA). Sheldon Lettich is an executive producer. To be honest I’m not big on these serial killer action hybrids. There’s more time spent on gruesome tortures, killings and bodies than on fights or chases, and without the artful tension of a good horror movie. It’s not scary, just kinda icky. Especially when you factor in the scene where the chief has a slide show about serial killers Ted Bundy, John Wayne Gacey and Gary Ridgway so they can cite the Russian serial killer with a higher body count to prove that Vladimir has had to deal with some shit. Maybe it’s because two of the four terrorized this area for a big chunk of my life (everybody who was here in the ’80s heard about somebody who was in carpool or a phone bank with Bundy, or saw him in his fake cast trying to pick up victims at the lake), but using these real murderers seemed to be in poor taste to me.
The most interesting thing about the movie is its director-producer-star Nevsky, a Russian bodybuilder turned actor/filmatist, who put together this Russian-American co-production, released over there in 2014. With his stern face, deep voice and large frame, “The Biggest Bodybuilder in Russia” 1995 is not an obvious choice for a leading man. One of his early uncredited roles is apparently as a prisoner in UNDISPUTED, which is the type of role you’d expect a guy like him to get. IMDb trivia claims he turned down roles in BATTLEDOME and THE ORDER because he didn’t want to play the “bad Russian.” And then he decided to take matters into his own hands.
So he made kind of a low budget RED HEAT, but from a Russian perspective. It begins with the murders in L.A. (where Nevsky has lived since 1999), but introduces Vladimir with Russian language scenes in Moscow. There are a few touches that attempt to show the two cities in an unexpected light: the establishing shot of Moscow starts with a famous piece of classical music (part of Antonin Dvorak’s “From the New World,” performed by the Moscow Symphony Orchestra according to SoundHound) that then morphs into frenzied dubstep as it whip pans through a very modern Moscow absent the domed cathedrals that Americans know as shorthand for “this is Russia.”
On our shores, though, we get the familiar sights like LAX, palm trees and the Capitol Records building, but Banuelos points out that not everybody is able to accomplish their dreams when they come here, and there are a couple of documentary shots of homeless encampments.
And the chief complains about American law being too soft on crime, claiming “It seems that Russia is becoming more like America, and America is becoming more like the Soviet Union.” I don’t know, chief.
Unlucky timing for a proud Russian to be making a play for movie stardom in the U.S. We got this whole thing going on between the two countries right now, makes it easy to be suspicious. But I like Nevsky as the big stiff fish-out-of-water, walking on the beach in his dress uniform, looking a little like Patrick Warburton, acting like early Dolph Lundgren, but the accent is real.
He also gave Davi kind of a cool role. I don’t necessarily picture an ex-Navy SEAL who was in Iraq and Afghanistan looking like him, but their rapport as fellow spec ops guys, a nice alternative to the usual angry chief cliche.
I’ll have to keep an eye out for future Nevsky joints. He provided the story for the b-action all star movie SHOWDOWN IN MANILA (directed by Mark Dacascos) and plays a character named Maxim in a movie called MAXIMUM IMPACT directed by Andrzej Bartkowiak. That has potential.
VERN has been reviewing movies since 1999 and is the author of the books SEAGALOGY: A STUDY OF THE ASS-KICKING FILMS OF STEVEN SEAGAL, YIPPEE KI-YAY MOVIEGOER!: WRITINGS ON BRUCE WILLIS, BADASS CINEMA AND OTHER IMPORTANT TOPICS and NIKETOWN: A NOVEL. His horror-action novel WORM ON A HOOK will arrive later this year.