Film Review: RUSSIAN DOLL (USA 2016) ***

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Russian Doll Poster
Russian Doll is a female-driven, sexy, edgy crime thriller about revenge. The story begins when a young woman discovers a murder plot, and calls 911. But seconds into the call, she’s …See full summary »


Ed Gaffney


Ed Gaffney


RUSSIAN DOLL begins with three excellent segments.  The first is the rehearsal of a play called RUSSIAN DOLL which ends with a character being shot.  The audience is fooled to think that was transpires on screen is real till the camera pulls back to reveal the audience watching the stage play.  The other is the cop, Viola Ames (Melanie Brockman Gaffney) who holds her own after being hassled in a redneck bar.  The third is the attack and abduction of a woman calling 911 to report a murder.

RUSSIAN DOLL has a solid story with a play within a film that has potential for more mysterious goings-on.   A Russian doll can be opened to reveal another smaller one which again can be opened to real yet another until the last one.  The characters in the story are not what they seem.  They have hidden layers which in most cases reveal a more sinister person.  The main lead is cop Viola Ames who appears tough on the outside, but is still mourning the death of her wife, constantly having nightmares every night.

The story begins when a young woman, Dalene (Aly Trasher) discovers a murder plot, and calls 911. But seconds into the call, she is attacked and abducted. The police investigation into the woman’s disappearance leads them to interrogate the cast and crew of a play called ‘The Russian Doll.’   What the cops don’t know is that like a Russian doll, one of the people they question is a killer hiding in plain sight, preparing to avenge a thirty-year-old crime by murdering a cast member on opening night.   This fact is revealed after the first half of the film.  And what they also do not know is that if they do not act quickly, the kidnapped woman will die, too.  Running throughout the movie is a subplot focused on the lead detective, Viola Ames. Viola’s wife died two years earlier, and Viola has never really recovered.  During her investigation, Viola meets a beautiful young lesbian named Faith.   The story ties the subplot to the main one by having Faith contribute a clue to the investigation.  One way of getting thought to a cop or detective is to provide a relevant clue.  As a result, Viola is strongly attracted to Faith, which allows the film to have a double happy ending.

The film also contains a beautiful original song “Memories of You” sung by a street singer, Travis as Viola tips him too much for singing her favourite song, bringing her back good memories of her passed way lover.

The film described appropriately as a sexy lesbian crime thriller lives to its catch phrase description.  It also accepts the lead character’s sexual orientation as a given.  Viola’s mother (Kristine Sutherland) fixes her daughter up with a dinner date with Faith (Marem Hassler).  Both mothers are present during the dinner and it could very well be a straight dinner date fix-up as a gay one.  The sexual orientation is not given any issue and taken as an accepted given, a sign of good progress that this film demonstrates.  This is in contrast to the soon to be released ALLURE where the writer/directors have to resort to unacceptable offensive dialogue like “fucking faggot” to make a point.

RUSSIAN DOLL is a satisfying, well made thriller, a compelling watch from start to end. 


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