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Black Sea review

Down, down, down by Law

Pros

  • Theatrical release: 5 December 2014
  • Director: Kevin Macdonald
  • Starring: Jude Law
  • Grigoriy Dobrygin
  • Tobias Menzies
  • Scoot McNairy
  • Ben Mendelsohn

Cons

DOWN, DOWN, DOWN BY LAW

Kevin Macdonald’s (The Last King Of Scotland) latest recasts Humphrey Bogart classic The Treasure Of The Sierra Madre as a recession-era parable in a rusty Russian submarine. The result’s a deep-sea adventure that’s as flawed as it is fun.

Jude Law’s Captain Robinson leads a crew of redundant British salvagers in a quest to find a missing cache of Nazi gold at the bottom of the Black Sea. The sub’s too old, the pressure’s too high and the loot’s too heavy – but the fewer survivors that reach the surface, the bigger the share of the kitty. Deep water and dwindling oxygen supplies might be bad enough, but nothing kills faster than greed...

Black Sea is part heist movie, part survival story. The spaces between the set-pieces are filled with sweaty, sweary men doing sweaty, sweary things. Unashamedly blokey (Jodie Whittaker makes a fleeting appearance in a hazy flashback), it’s also refreshingly taut – with only a soggy bit of opening exposition keeping the crew above the waves.

Obviously modelling his Scottish accent on Sean Connery in The Hunt For Red October, Law is a mixed blessing. About as working class as Waitrose, his shaved head, swagger and silly voice look out of place among an ensemble of great character actors (Ben Mendelsohn, Michael Smiley, David Threlfall, Scoot McNairy), yet he still somehow manages to carry the weight of the whole film with a mature, steely performance.

Looking like Alien, wanting to be The Wages Of Fear and indebted to Bogart’s winner, it’s more of a Boys’ Own adventure that requires some forgiveness from the audience. Smartly scripted, often exciting and crafted with care, it just about earns it.

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