Rihanna's violent, disturbing 'Russian Roulette' video: How dark is too dark?

What, you thought Rihanna was going to give “Russian Roulette” a video full of sunshine and rainbows and peppy choreography? Her first single from Rated R is a song about violence. The video, which 20/20 premiered last night, is about the darkest piece of promotional material I’ve ever seen from a pop star.

The requisite shots of Rihanna and a man playing with a pistol aren’t the half of it. The video also features Rihanna writhing on the floor of a prison cell while menacing guards look on; staring down a speeding car on a dark highway; and twisting and turning underwater as bullets fly past. Director Anthony Mandler gives the clip an arty feel with creative camera angles and speed-up/slow-down effects. It’s the logical extension of previous Mandler-Rihanna collabs like “Disturbia” — which, like this clip, owed a heavy debt to the work of “Closer”/“99 Problems” auteur Mark Romanek. Perhaps needless to say, “Russian Roulette” is also an infinitely more worthwhile production than the pandering schlock that Rihanna’s abusive ex is putting out these days.

Of course, good art isn’t always good business. This is an extremely creepy video. I’m not sure how much MTV play it’ll get (during the few hours they still play videos), and more importantly, I wonder how many potential Rated R buyers will find this imagery to be a turn-off. Watch the video below, then you tell me: Do you think this is too dark for a pop video? And do you like this clip as much as I do?

(Follow the Music Mix on Twitter: @EWMusicMix.)

More from EW.com’s Music Mix:
Rihanna’s dark, daring new single: “Russian Roulette”
Chris Brown’s “Crawl” video: He feels remorseful about a lost love. Do you care?
‘Glee: The Music, Vol. 2′ track listing revealed!
Solange covers the Dirty Projectors, delivers a little bit of awesome
Timbaland on Miley Cyrus: She’s the next Justin Timberlake

Comments (41 total) Add your comment
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  • rachelle

    Beautiful and artistic. I would watch it again and again

    • jasmine

      diz video is crazy and really deep

  • ashley

    It’s alright. I don’t think it’s too dark…but perhaps Mark Romanek should have been the director. The vid wasn’t as dark, or as impressive as i thought it would be. It’s alright. Bad Romance is better. and so is Closer/ The Perfect Drug. I like it, don’t love it. I’m glad she’s going in a darker direction.

  • ashley

    I really like the end bit. But none of the video really sticks in my mind after i watch it.

  • Deejay

    Saw the whole video early this morning. It is dark and chilling!! I started to get goose bumps with the thought of “pulling the trigga”. This is definitely a “grown up” video and should be labeled accordingly. I understand the purpose of the song and video but I won’t be watching it again!!

  • Mimi

    I saw this video on another player, not a mtv one and i noticed that in this mtv version, the gunshot at the end isn’t in there. in the other version, the last shot of rihanna features a gun shot, so, makes you think the guy just shot himself. that was scary, but, it kinda was cool at the same time.

    i think it’s a great video, goes right along with the song, which i realy realy like1

  • graeme

    great video.

  • elena

    Disturbing imagery, especially if Rihanna considers her fan base among teenagers. The thing that bothers me is that “Russian Roulette” isn’t a great song. Rihanna can do ballad-y songs (“Unfaithful,” “Rehab”), but this one is plodding and kind of boring. Her songs can be darker, but their quality should still remain.

  • Phil

    Simon, I know I’ve come for you many times, but I got your back with all these CAR-RAY-ZEE Chris Breezy female fans givin’ you a hard time for telling it like it is. Who knew it would take an admitted abuser to make us get along!? =)
    Anyways…I knew from the get go that this video was going to be dark & disturbing. Its probably the WORST first single in the history of releases EVER, and I am surprised that Def Jam got the song to rocket to #9 on the Billboard Hot 100 this week (ahh digital sales!!). I love Rihanna. I’m glad she is getting to share her vision after the darkness she experienced earlier this year. And the few times I’ve met her, she has always been a clasa act. I really wanna hang with her again NOW & see how much this entire situation has changed her. Not so sure what the shelf life for this video will be, it all depends on how big an urban hit “Hard” becomes, and how quickly mainstream programmers jump on that in lieu of this darker single.

  • Jamie

    The song is definitely haunting. It’s going to be interesting to watch her career from now on. And on a completely superficial note, Dr Hotness Monster’s eyes look hazel in that one. To quote the EW Grey’s recapper, what color are those things!

    • superficial

      I’m with you. As shoot as I saw the first shot I was like “McHOtness Monster!!!” It kinda killed the creepy note.

    • the girl

      I knew it! I knew it was Dr Hotness Monster! Best part of the video. Love his face.

  • miss k

    Did anyone else get a Holocaust-type feeling with the gas chamber and the police officers? Cuz that kinda creeped me out. It’s a beautiful and powerful video but geesh, I don’t think I want to download this song anymore. Everytime I listen to this song I’m gonna think of this video.

  • Jenny

    I’m not a huge fan, but I respect her work here. The video is beautiful, and a total work of art. Unlike Britney’s “3”, it isn’t superficial and can be analyzed. I think the video is appropriate for the song and album. It’s not a video for kids, but then again, the album is titled “Rated R”.

  • MzCaliAttorney

    Isn’t MJ’s Thriller frightening and creepy?? It’s also GREAT!!! Who wants more of the same…not me!

  • farrah

    Great video. Better than Chris Brown’s crawl. Rihanna is def going deep and a lot of critics like it when singers tackle dark topics in their music. I see some awards coming for the next cd. I don’t think its two dark for MTV but if it is who cares. Most people watch music videos online these days ne way. Her music is better than that sappy s#it Chris has been putting out. I don’t dislike Chris Brown but I kind of wish he would go away for a while and stop apologizing for his mistakes all the time. If your sorry prove it and stop bringing it up all the time.

  • Eric

    I wouldn’t call it creepy, but it’s definitely dark and heavy material. The parts in the prison remind me of Madonna’s “Die Another Day” a bit, which is a good thing in my opinion! I think the vid represents song well.

  • Nick T

    No. She dies. Scary. I don’t like the director. Rihanna deserves a director who fetishizes beautiful women.

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