Quantcast
Channel: Good Efficient Butchery
Viewing all articles
Browse latest Browse all 1212

In Theaters/On VOD: THE POISON ROSE (2019)

0
0

THE POISON ROSE
(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 arrives in Galveston and is promptly stonewalled by Dr. Miles Mitchell (Brendan Fraser, a last-minute replacement when Forest Whitaker backed out), the weirdo in charge of the sanitarium, who insists that Ms. Van Poole is undergoing intense treatment and cannot be bothered. Using his downtime to renew old townie acquaintances like Sheriff Bing Welsh (Robert Patrick), aging hippie Slide Olsen (Peter Stormare), and obscenely wealthy mover-and-shaker Doc (Freeman), Phillips gets involved in another mystery when college football star Happy Chandler (Devin Ellery) takes a nasty hit on the field and dies. An autopsy reveals speed, meth, and an overdose of a cancer drug in his system, and the chief suspect is his wife Becky (Ella Bleu Travolta), who has plenty of motive since Happy was abusive and was sleeping with several other women, including Doc's sultry chanteuse daughter Rose (Kat Graham). Further complicating matters is that Becky's mother is Jayne Hunt (Famke Janssen), the woman Phillips left after his football scandal and the widow of a Galveston oil baron who was Doc's chief competitor. Doc wants part of Jayne's empire and for her to talk a snooping Phillips into going back to L.A., and Jayne wants Doc to grease Sheriff Welsh and the local law to take the heat for Happy's death off of Becky. All the while, Phillips keeps investigating and uncovers a conspiracy of corruption, a cancer cluster resulting from groundwater contamination, rampant medical billing fraud, and disappearing sanitarium patients, with random people threatening and taking shots at him to let him know he's no longer welcome in Galveston.





This is more or less DIPSHIT CHINATOWN, with the period detail primarily limited to the cars and people smoking indoors, with no real point to it taking place in 1978. Freeman's Doc is straight out of the Noah Cross playbook ("He owns everyone and everything!" Jayne says) and the story is so convoluted that you'll ultimately stop caring. In relation to Travolta's recent output that's almost enough to make John Cusack and Bruce Willis look away in embarrassment (GOTTI, SPEED KILLS, TRADING PAINT), THE POISON ROSE has a little more going for it--it's hard to dislike any movie that opens with GREEN BOOK Oscar-winner Nick Vallelonga getting kneed in the balls--and its biggest disappointment is that it takes itself too seriously and never fully embraces its inherent insanity. This is a film where Peter Stormare is shown singing a country music ditty and even he doesn't have the weirdest accent in it. It's been a while since Fraser was in a feature film, and if he's gunning to reinvent himself as a character actor in the Sidney Lassick mold, he's off to a promising start with his fey, lisping, whiny Dr. Mitchell. Fraser gives THE POISON ROSE its biggest spark and it's entertainingly weird whenever he's onscreen, plus his final scene is a viral YouTube clip waiting to happen. There's a hilarious scene where local drug dealer Lorenzo (Blerim Destani) is firing at Phillips in an empty football stadium, and Phillips grabs a football and takes him down with a perfectly-thrown spiral. It's also nice to see Travolta acting with his daughter Ella Bleu, even if it's something dumb like Phillips teaching Becky how to properly dunk donuts in coffee. Screenwriter and Travolta pal Richard Salvatore, working from a self-published novel by, uh, Richard Salvatore, gets off a few good P.I. zingers in the requisite noir narration, with Phillips cracking that "the next big case Bing solved would be his first," but usually it's cliches along the lines of "This is a bad place...worse than you can imagine," or this groan-worthy exchange more fitting for DEAD MEN DON'T WEAR PLAID:

Phillips: "You're tough as nails."
Jayne: "Those nails got rusty."  

The film was directed by George Gallo, best known for scripting the 1988 buddy classic 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.


Viewing all articles
Browse latest Browse all 1212

Latest Images

Trending Articles





Latest Images