Review: ‘Black’s Game’

This Icelandic crime thriller is a little too indebted to a slew of like-minded gangster movies, from "GoodFellas" to exec producer Nicolas Winding Refn's own original "Pusher" pic.

Allegedly based on “some stuff that actually happened,” per opening titles, as well as on a book, Icelandic crime thriller “Black’s Game” is also a little too indebted to a slew of like-minded gangster movies, from “GoodFellas” to exec producer Nicolas Winding Refn’s own original “Pusher” pic. Although it’s a refreshing change to see a seedier side to Reykjavik, normally such a cozily portrayed locale, and despite energetic helming by writer-director Oskar Thor Azelsson, there’s no getting around the fact that the third act fizzles out. Still, “Game” could play well in Nordic territories and elsewhere offshore, especially on ancillary.

Protagonist Stebbi (Thorvaldur David Kristjansson) is lured into a life of crime when he runs into his schoolmate Toti (Johannes Haukur Johannesson). Before long they’re helping psychotic kingpin Bruno (Damon Younger) take over the island’s drug trade. Inevitably, things start to unravel, but not before the requisite drug-binge montages, slo-mo clubbing scenes and even a novel orgy sequence have run their course. Pic is strongest on the procedural challenges of importing drugs into such an isolated country, and the dialogue has snap, but it all feels a little too secondhand.

Black's Game

Iceland

Production

A Zik Zak Filmworks production. (International sales: TrustNordisk, Hvidovre, Denmark.) Produced by Thor S. Sigurjonsson, Skuli Fr. Malmquist, Arnar Knutsson. Executive producers, Nicolas Winding Refn, Chris Briggs, Andri Sveinsson, Heidar Gudjonsson. Directed, written by Oskar Thor Azelsson, based on the novel by Stefan Mani.

Crew

Camera (color, widescreen, HD), Bergsteinn Bjorgulfsson; editor, Kristjan Lodmfjord; music, Frank Hall; production designer, Haukur Karlsson; art director, Julia Katrinardottir; costume designer, Margret Einarsdottir. Reviewed at Berlin Film Festival (market), Feb. 9, 2012. (Also in Rotterdam Film Festival -- competing.) Running time: 104 MIN.

With

Thorvaldur David Kristjansson, Johannes Haukur Johannesson, Damon Younger, Maria B. Bjarnardottir. (Icelandic, English dialogue)

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