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Columbia TriStar Home Video presents
Gang of Roses (2003)

"Mama said there'd be days like this."
- Chastity (Lil' Kim)

Review By: Rich Rosell   
Published: February 18, 2004

Stars: Monica Calhoun, Stacey Dash, Lisaraye, Marie Matiko, Lil' Kim
Other Stars: Bobby Brown, Charity Hill, Jean Claude LaMarre, Glenn Plummer, Brian 'Skinny B' Lewis, Louis Mandylor, Macy Gray, Ted Lange, Mario Van Peebles
Director: Jean Claude Lamarre

MPAA Rating: R for some sexual content
Run Time: 01h:33m:28s
Release Date: January 27, 2004
UPC: 043396036505
Genre: western

Image Transfer
Audio Transfer

DVD Review

According to writer/director Jean Claude LaMarre, Gang of Roses is "hip-hop meets the Old West" and that simple, high concept description should really tell you all you need to know about this film. The story elements should be more than a little familiar to anyone who has ever seen a western (a band of nasty outlaws is targeted for revenge by the sister of someone they murdered), and the only major surface difference is that the film has a distinctly urban appeal, from casting on through to the score.

The Rose Gang, as we learn during an opening title crawl, were a notorious group of female bank robbers who prowled the West during the time of Billy The Kid, and after a string of robberies, the gang disappeared suddenly, vanishing into obscurity. That is, of course, until the sister of former Rose Gang-er Rachel (Monica Calhoun) is murdered by a rugged band of gold-hungry desperadoes who have taken over the town of Flatridge. This call for vengeance prompts the old "get the band back together" situation, with Rachel tracking down her old posse to unite for one final stab at frontier justice.

As you can see from the cover art, the Rose Gang conveniently consists of five beautiful women (Calhoun, Stacey Dash, Lisaraye, Marie Matiko, and rapper Lil' Kim), all of whom wear their own brand of specially color-coded leathery duds, which I guess is supposed to make them more easily identifiable as characters. It's a rather simplistic move, but when you have snappy-dressed pretty girls acting tough and shooting bad guys, there doesn't really need to be much else pulled up from the creative well. To be fair, LaMarre isn't doing anything less one-dimensional in Gang of Roses than 1,000 other westerns have done in the past, and tweaking things with a hip-hop flavor is just new window-dressing for more of the same old same old genre stuff.

The problem is that the film seems to be played way too seriously for its own good, and I got the impression that LaMarre wasn't necessarily trying to make a campy western. Or was he? I couldn't tell if all of the eye-squinting, one-liners, and twitchy trigger fingers were nudge-nudge jokes or simply required elements, and as a viewer you're left wondering whether you are laughing at something that was meant to be intentionally funny or not. The fun stuff, which includes bad guys who are led by psychotic Left Eye (a comically hammy Bobby "Mr. Whitney Houston" Brown), and his scene-stealing murderous lesbian sidekick Suzie (Charity Hill) are sandwiched between endless scenes of pretty girls furrowing their brows and riding horses. The macho posturing has the dramatic depth of the acting in a music video, but similar to what I mentioned earlier, the same kind of stiff bravado swagger has been a genre staple for decades, so LaMarre hasn't necessarily lowered the bar any here. He just hasn't improved on it.

It's odd that Gang of Roses has been issued an R-rating, given that the majority of its violence occurs largely off-screen (except for things like stuntmen falling from balconies), and the so-called "sexual content" seems similarly tame. Maybe it's a street credibility issue just to get an R, but if LaMarre had made his film grittier it may have looked less like simply a group of well-dressed babes wandering through an immaculately clean western movie set.

The thing is, I can see something like Gang of Roses working better as a syndicated series (the weekly adventures of pretty girls in leather with guns righting wrongs in the hip-hoppy Old West) than as a standalone film.

Rating for Style: C+
Rating for Substance: C


Image Transfer

Aspect Ratio1.33:1 - Full Frame
Original Aspect Ratioyes

Image Transfer Review: Columbia TriStar has issued Gang of Roses in a fairly nice looking 1.33:1 full-frame transfer, though I'm not certain if this was the original aspect ratio or not. The film manages to play well in 4:3, without any of the visuals appearing to have been truncated or chopped too noticeably. The source print was very clean, and color reproduction reveals especially bright and vibrant hues and deep, even black levels.

Image Transfer Grade: B


Audio Transfer

 LanguageRemote Access
DS 2.0English, Spanishyes

Audio Transfer Review: For a Dolby Digital 2.0 surround track, this one has more punch and depth than a lot of 5.1 mixes I've heard; there's even some more than modest bass from time to time. Rear channels get some use for ambient cues, like dogs barking off in the distance, and though the surrounds are not overused, they do fill out the soundstage in small, subtle ways. Dialogue is crisp and well-mixed, and understanding the quasi-macho dialogue was never an issue.

A 2.0 Spanish track is also included.

Audio Transfer Grade: B


Disc Extras

Static menu with music
Scene Access with 24 cues and remote access
1 Original Trailer(s)
1 Documentaries
Packaging: Amaray
Picture Disc
1 Disc
1-Sided disc(s)
Layers: single

Extras Review: Though not listed on the jacket, there is a Making Of feature (32m:14s) that gives director Jean Claude LaMarre the opportunity to explain his reasons for making the film ("What has not been done before?"), as well as offering some behind-the-scenes footage and comments from the cast. LaMarre seems pleased with Gang of Roses, and certainly didn't seem to intend for it to be as campy as it turned out.

In addition to a theatrical trailer, the disc is cut into 24 chapters, and though the back cover promises French subtitles, they are nowhere to be found.

Extras Grade: C+


Final Comments

Plot-wise, there isn't much to differentiate Gang of Roses from any of the thousands of predictable westerns made over the last fifty years, and for that reason there isn't much to get really excited about. Except for the hot chicks, of course, which is what makes this hip-hop-meets-the-Old-West flick relatively fresh, but still not particularly substantive.

The concept is interesting, in a curious B-movie kind of way, but the whole thing was played a little too serious (or at least seemed to be), and it is unlikely that this one will do much to revive the 'black western' genre.

On the plus side, however, there is never anything really wrong with seeing pretty girls and big guns.


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