(US/Italy - 2019)
Directed by George Gallo. Written by Richard Salvatore. Cast: John Travolta, Morgan Freeman, Famke Janssen, Brendan Fraser, Robert Patrick, Kat Graham, Peter Stormare, Ella Bleu Travolta, Blerim Destani, Julie Lott, Nick Vallelonga, Devin Ellery, Chris Mullinax, Melissa Greenspan, Sheila Shah, Nadine Lewington, Ashley Atwood, Anson Downes, Bill Luckett. (R, 97 mins)
It's always unfortunate when great movie stars don't team up until the downside of their careers. This means you get things like Al Pacino and Anthony Hopkins having a one-scene confrontation in the 2016 straight-to-VOD dud MISCONDUCT, but they're never in the same shot together as it quickly becomes obvious that they weren't even there at the same time. That's not quite the case with John Travolta and Morgan Freeman in THE POISON ROSE, but it's just as dispiriting that these two never worked together until the era of VOD Travoltablivion. A neo-noir that feels like it's been frozen in ice since the waning days of Savoy Pictures and boasting the finest ensemble that 1997 had to offer, THE POISON ROSE opens in 1978 Los Angeles, as low-rent private eye Carson Phillips (Travolta, sporting a career-worst wig) is offered a job by a mystery woman (Julie Lott) to verify the whereabouts of an elderly relative named Barbara Van Poole, who's supposedly a patient at a sanitarium in Phillips' hometown of Galveston. Phillips is reluctant, as he got as far away from Texas as he could 20 years earlier when he was disgraced in a point-shaving scandal that ended his gridiron career. And before we go any further, yes, THE POISON ROSE is the kind of movie that asks you to buy 65-year-old John Travolta as a guy who was a college football star 20 years earlier.
Phillips: "You're tough as nails."
Jayne: "Those nails got rusty."
MIDNIGHT RUN and co-writing 1995's BAD BOYS, but has done little else of note. IMDb and some reviews are crediting two Italian filmmakers--Francesco Cinquemani and Luca Giliberto--as additional co-directors, though their names are nowhere to be found on the film itself. Shot in Savannah, GA, THE POISON ROSE is a US/Italian co-production from Cannon cover band Millennium and Italian producer Andrea Iervolino, and the closing credits list an Italian unit. Cinquemani--who also directed the abominable Italian HUNGER GAMES ripoff ANDRON that somehow starred Alec Baldwin--has been actively plugging THE POISON ROSE all over social media but it's not clear from this exactly what his or Gilibertro's contributions were. The inclusion of numerous Italian actors in the cast listing on the film's IMDb page who aren't even in the movie--among them Claudia Gerini (JOHN WICK: CHAPTER 2) and Bruno Bilotta (DEMONS 2)--could indicate either some serious post-production tweaking or that Iervolino had Cinquemani and Giliberto shoot additional scenes specifically tailored for the Italian and/or European market, though I really can't imagine this being a hit anywhere.