Movie Review: “Black Rose” is “Red Heat” without the wit, or the heat

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Alexander Nevsky was a great hero of medieval Russia. The 13th century Grand Prince of Kiev and fought the Germans and Swedes, paid off the Mongols and was made a Russian Orthodox saint and the focus of a famous Sergei Eisenstein Soviet era bio-pic, with music by Sergei Prokofiev.

Putin-era Russia even named a nuclear submarine after him.

Alexander Nevsky is also the stage name –legally changed — of body builder turned actor/director Aleksandr Aleksandrovich Kuritsyn, a Schwarzenegger-sized star in Russia, who makes his Hollywood debut with “Black Rose.” And the nicest thing one can say about that is let’s hope he didn’t pawn his barbells.

“Black Rose” is a lurid C-movie thriller about the murders of Russian prostitutes in Hollywood, crimes that police Captain Frank Dalano (Robert Davi) can only solve by bringing in a crack Russian cop for assistance.

Major Vladimir Kasatov (Nevsky) is tough, brave, a maverick who busts in on a Moscow bank robbery/hostage situation and ends it with a Jeep and a gun.  He’s also huge.

“What do they FEED you over there?”

Paired up with a police profiler, Emily Smith (Kristanna Loken), Kasatov must pry info out of a secretive community of ex-pats who don’t expect Putin-esque police tactics here in America. Silly them.

Failing that, he and Smith must lure the murderer into the open.

“Our plan is working,” Smith deadpans as she hears of another killing. Right. A few more murders and they’ll have their guy, for sure.

We, of course, have guessed the killer much earlier than them. But Nevsky the director has to flesh out an 82 minute thriller somehow, so we get shots of the big Russian walking Venice Beach, strong-arming Russian bakers and busting up a mugging with murderous, trigger-happy relish.

Night club scene? Naturally. Cryptic Russian notes pinned to the victims, along with a “Black Rose”? Why not?

There is zero urgency to the performances, across the board. Even the victims, some of them tortured, seem to be unmoved by their own suffering, waiting for “CUT” so they can check their phone to see if another offer has come in. ‘

Nevsky the director shows no hint of style or flash, and Nevsky the actor may smile once or twice, but as in the earlier version of this, Arnold’s more amusing and meaty (barely) “Red Heat,” any use of facial muscles is forbidden when that’s the only way you know to play “stoic.”

There’s no chemistry between the leads, and nothing they do or say propels the action forward.

Veteran tough guy Davi gives fair value in his few scenes.

But the rest of this plays like an ill-considered vanity project intended for export to Mother Russia. Maybe there, they’ll be willing to ignore the stiff acting, dull directing and story whose ending is guessable almost from the opening credits.

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Cast: Alexander Nevsky, Kristanna Loken, Robert Davi, Adrian PaulMPAA Rating: unrated, with graphic violence

Credits: Directed by Alexander Nevsky, script by Brent Huff, George Saunders . An ITN release.

Running time: 1:22

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