OK thriller, better subplot

  • by David-Elijah Nahmod
  • Wednesday April 25, 2018
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Lesbian-owned Wolfe Video offers the crime thriller "Russian Doll," which offers a better subplot than its main story. Melanie Brockmann Gaffney stars as Viola, a Boston detective still mourning the loss of her wife two years earlier. She and her partner EJ (Sarah Hollis) are trying to find and save the life of Darlene (Aly Trasher), who's been kidnapped after stumbling onto a murder plot involving a play called "The Russian Doll." The playwright-star (Peter S. Adams) has lived off the play for decades. Only he's not the playwright. He stole "The Russian Doll" from its true author, driving the author to commit suicide.

Now, many years later, the real playwright's daughter and her boyfriend are plotting to kill the thief. Darlene is the daughter's roommate, who needs to be kept silent. There are several disturbing sequences in which Darlene is tortured for trying to escape from her captors.

"Russian Doll" is an OK thriller, though far from a great one. Far more interesting to LGBT viewers is the subplot involving Viola's attempts to move on from the memory of her late wife and to start dating again. Sparks fly when Viola's Mom introduces her to the beautiful Faith (Marem Hassler). The attraction between the two women is obvious, but Viola finds herself unable to let go of her wife's ghost. She still lives in the house they shared, and two years later has yet to remove her wedding ring. Viola soon has an erotic dream involving herself and Faith that suggests she might be weakening. The film moves back and forth between the two storylines, each of which has nothing to do with the other. It's almost as though Gaffney is starring in two completely different films.

"The Russian Doll" story does offer a few nice twists, such as when it's revealed that two of the characters are actually the playwright's daughter and her boyfriend in disguise. In the film's most shocking sequence, the thief is shot to death live on stage in front of an audience.

The acting is decent. Gaffney is convincing as a cop determined to crack her case. She's even better as the grieving widow, struggling to come to grips with the memory of her wife, and with her burgeoning feelings for the new woman in her life. Gaffney and Hassler have great chemistry as the fledgling couple.

Trasher is superb as the kidnapping victim who's determined to break free. No matter what her captors do, she fights back. Peter S. Adams is wonderfully creepy as the thieving playwright who ruined someone's life and just doesn't care. "Russian Doll" does have its moments. Wolfe's disc includes the film's trailer and an English subtitles option.