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?

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