Lionsgate // 2013 // 105 Minutes // Rated R
Reviewed by Judge David Johnson // February 28th, 2013
Iced in Iceland.
First things first: Ignore the cover art. I don't know who that dude is, but he kind of looks like a CGI creation lifted from a cut scene of the most recent Grand Theft Auto game. Despite the amped-up, dual-wielding action-packed artistry, Black's Game is not a film built on delivering on-screen mayhem to consumers. You're looking at a period crime drama, detailing one hapless dope's involvement and subsequent rise in the Icelandic drug scene.
That dope is Stebbi, a student who finds himself arrested after a harmless bit of youthful tomfoolery. His light jaunt down the avenue of criminality takes off into a full-blown saga once he meets a former childhood friend named Toti. Thanks to Toti's intervention, Stebbi's in debt and, hence, the cocaine flows.
Black's Game documents Stebbi's experience with Toti and his fellow dope-slingers, tracing his adventure from the first days when it was all boinking and snorting through the higher stakes era when he was neck deep in the business and, finally, to the precipice, where he crossed the wrong dudes and the dream began to die.
It's all, evidently, inspired by a true story but I don't have the wherewithal to track down the Wikipedia entry to confirm this, so I'll just trust the filmmaker's honesty. The good news? If you're even mildly interested in the story behind the drug wars of Iceland, Black's Game will scratch that itch.
As a real-life gangster flick, it has its moments. Stebbi is a decent -- if familiar -- trope. Wide-eyed lout who gets in way over his head, yada yada yada, but it's a conceit that serves the film well here and by the end of the shenanigans he ends up being a nuanced, sympathetic character. On the other end is Toti, who fills the "over-the-top drug-crazed gangster lunatic" slot, screaming obscenities, uncorking extreme violence and getting plastered and dancing around naked in his bedroom for no discernible reason.
It is their story that drives Black's Game, which, as it moves forward, reveals itself to be more of a character study set against a seedy backdrop of greed and girls and getting goofy. On balance, the film works as such and gets pushed over the finish line thanks to the simple fact that I had no clue about Iceland's narcotic history and it was relatively interesting to see something I haven't seen before. Also, the English dubbing might be the worst I've ever heard, so that was fun.
The DVD: standard def 2.40:1 anamorphic widescreen, Dolby 5.1 Surround (Icelandic and English), and a suite of cast interviews.
Not Guilty, and I still wouldn't mind seeing a movie featuring that dude on the cover.
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Scales of Justice
* 2.40:1 Anamorphic
* Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (English)
* Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (Icelandic)
* English (CC)
Running Time: 105 Minutes
Release Year: 2013
MPAA Rating: Rated R