Rihanna’s ‘Russian Roulette’ Video: Dark Arts

Singer treads into unfamiliar, moody territory in new clip.

There’s seemingly no bottom to the inky depths [artist id="1940303"]Rihanna[/artist] plumbs in her brand-new “Russian Roulette” video, a dark, claustrophobic descent that’s creepier than anything she’s ever done before (including the “Disturbia” video), mostly because it’s so unrelentingly bleak.

Directed by frequent collaborator Anthony Mandler, bathed in a near-nocturnal pitch (truly, there is no sunlight here), featuring blood and tears and vehicular assault, “Roulette” is unlike anything we’ve ever seen from Rihanna and, in keeping with the darker tones of her Rated R album, it serves notice that Little Misss Sunshine is gone forever — replaced instead with someone darker, more sinister (she usually wears lingerie and an eye patch).

There is much of the titular gunplay (it’s a wonder most of it got by the censors, truth be told) and artfully shot underwater scenes in which Rihanna is pierced by bullets, her blood clouding as her body contorts. There are her shadowy tormentors, who keep her locked away and subject her to all sorts of torture (mostly of the “red smoke” variety). There are scenes of her twisting and pawing in a padded cell. At one point, she is mowed down by a speeding car. “Pon De Replay,” this ain’t.

“Roulette” is a moody, artful thing, but it’s also quite difficult — like the song itself, this isn’t your typical pop fare. It’s minimal, pulsing, and there is an unspoken tension (which sort of makes sense, since playing Russian roulette isn’t exactly a vacation). Rihanna is clearly taking more than a few risks with R — she’s stretching her legs and flexing her artistic muscles. Obviously, she has a lot of material to draw from, but the question is, will her fans take her new sound — and style — in stride? Will this song stick at radio stations after the initial fervor surrounding it dissipates?

We’ll just have to wait and see. If “Russian Roulette” is any indicator, it’s certainly going to be an interesting ride.