Director: George Gallo
Cast: John Travolta, Morgan Freeman, Famke Janssen
Release Date: May 24, 2019
A Review By: Kevin Lovell
Film Rating: 7.5/10
John Travolta, Morgan Freeman, Famke Janssen, Ella Bleu Travolta, Robert Patrick, and Brendan Fraser lend their talents to this searing detective thriller. Travolta plays Carson Philips, a hard-drinking L.A. private eye who takes a case in his old hometown of Galveston, Texas. While searching for a missing woman, Philips must confront a crime boss (Freeman), a shady doctor (Fraser), a sexy club singer (Kat Graham), his former lover (Janssen) — and his own dark, disturbing past.
‘The Poison Rose’ accompanies Hollywood Private Eye Carson Philips (Travolta) who hesitantly journeys back to his Texas hometown at the bequest of a client, only to find himself confronted with memories and relationships from his past both good and bad, including the woman he left behind years prior. Unable to resist the plea of a beautiful woman, when his old love (Janssen) beseeches his assistance in a strange local death riddled with questions and curious elements surrounding it, he can’t resist and agrees to take on the case. Now, Carson must delve into the shady world of the town he’s no longer in touch with and the powerful man who indirectly controls the town (Freeman) in order to uncover the dangerous truth about the local killing, while also managing to survive all of the people intent on preventing him from doing just that.
Directed by George Gallo (director of ‘Middle Men’ and writer of ‘Bad Boys’ and ‘Midnight Run’) from a script by first time screenwriter Richard Salvatore and based upon the novel of the same name by Salvatore and Jay Brandon, Gallo does a great job at the helm of ‘The Poison Rose’ capturing all the little tidbits and nods that make the film feel a great deal like the classics it honors. It also owes a tremendous amount of credit to the noteworthy and talented cast which includes John Travolta (Pulp Fiction), Morgan Freeman (The Dark Knight), Famke Janssen (X-Men), Kat Graham (TV’s The Vampire Diaries), Peter Stormare (TV’s American Gods), Ella Bleu Travolta (Old Dogs), Robert Patrick (Terminator 2: Judgment Day) and Brendan Fraser (TV’s Doom Patrol) along with more, with nearly all offering fitting and quite capable performances in each of their respective roles.
‘The Poison Rose’ is a stylish, engaging and passionately faithful throwback to private eye film noir classics that does a magnificent job of bringing so many famous traits reminiscent of those film noir detective tales to the mix and giving it that unique and unforgettable tone, right on down to the regular monologues from our alcoholic and chain-smoking private eye lead (played with a calm, slick style by Travolta) along the way. Accompanied by all of the expected clichés and red herrings that make this type of mystery flick so enjoyable in their own right, it’s a relatively well-crafted mystery sporting plenty of twists, turns and surprises, even if some of them may not be overly shocking or revelatory. But even with a nature that can be noticeably cheesy or over the top, most of it only helps in smartly developing an exciting and just plain fun tale that in numerous ways one could easily imagine hitting cinemas decades prior. Weaving an intriguing Texas mystery with plenty of morally questionable characters populating the uncertain landscape and no shortage of betrayal, danger and deceit around every corner to keep you glued to the screen for its duration, while likely also regularly slapping a smile on the face of detective noir fans along the way. Fans of similar private eye mysteries will probably want to at least strongly consider giving this one a whirl, especially if you happen to conveniently come across it at some point.
Overall, ‘The Poison Rose’ is a slick, smooth-talking homage to the famous private eye mysteries of old that will have you almost feeling as if you were thrown back into 1970’s Texas with our gambling, chain-smoking lead who sports a weakness for beautiful women (naturally). Carefully guided along by director George Gallo each step of the way and his competent work at the helm is only greatly complimented by a magnificent cast led by John Travolta and Morgan Freeman who also share the screen for the first time here. ‘The Poison Rose’ is definitely recommended, especially for fans of classic film noir private detective tales of old who are sure to only appreciate this one all the more for its constant nods to the genre and a faithful style and approach to the material that screams the 1970’s in nearly every way. For those at all intrigued in the film to begin with or even interested solely as a result of the impressive cast, it should be worth giving this fun, throwback mystery a chance whenever possible.