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Black Crab Review

This is a spoiler-free review of Black Crab, which premieres Friday, March 18 on Netflix.

Black Crab is a unique, bleak Swedish action-thriller featuring a fast and freezing ice-skating trek through a ravaged future world ripped apart by war. Through its “suicide mission”-style moonlit op, which crosses over a hundred miles of frozen Norwegian sea, it can give off some cool ’80s John Carpenter vibes, but its captivating look and premise aren’t quite enough to overcome its vagueness when it comes to world building and a third act that zigs when it should zag.

Noomi Rapace (Prometheus, The Girl with The Dragon Tattoo film series) stars as Caroline Edh, a skater-turned-soldier in this unexplained future war — which has decimated the entire country (and presumably surrounding nations) — who gets recruited onto a team tasked with skating across a frozen tundra in the dead of night to transport a secret weapon to a lab. Though she’s not in charge of the mission, Caroline’s the best skater of the bunch and is pulled aside and promised a reunion with her lost daughter, Vanja, if she can get the ball into the endzone.

Rapace is great here, firing up the intensity we’ve seen her display in the past, now battling both flying bullets and freezing weather in this outside-the-box assignment that director Alex Berg showcases with sleek detail and layers with the whispering synthwave of music trio Dead People. There are moments, when the team is skating across the frozen hellscape, under the cloak of darkness, moon reflecting off the ice, that Black Crab crackles with both retro flare and modern intensity. And with Caroline having hyper-personal stakes in the game, she becomes a rather cold and direct member on the team, untrusting of others and driven by a purpose the rest are unaware of.

Black Crab displays many of the lovely tropes associated with a ragtag quest story, including the systematic elimination of players on the board, with each victim falling as the film highlights the various hazards and obstacles in their way across the enemy-occupied ice. In this regard, Black Crab is a fun and forceful thriller. Once the secret package is revealed, though, the film’s overall murkiness works against it. As viewers, we’re sucked into the team’s immediate perils, but the larger war, which is never explained to us (to the point where, you know, it could be aliens for all we know), might leave one cold.

Questions emerge along the lines of: Who is the enemy? Are we on the wrong side? Is there no right side? And if there isn’t, then why is this film’s ultimate endgame that important? With this broadening of the themes, we move from impactful, understandable stakes to sort of esoteric stakes. Black Crab winds up losing its sinister specificity, which made for a nice oddball actioner, and evokes a larger impersonal “humanity might not even be worth saving” message. It doesn’t lose the thread completely in the end, largely thanks to Rapace being a badass who keeps Caroline’s rage intact throughout, but it does open the film up to philosophical exploration that isn’t quite needed.

The film should have settled on an firm war narrative rather than dilute our interests.

Caroline’s crew of ice road trekkers is a nice mix of shifty and saintly, with Jakob Oftebro and Ardalan Esmaili playing soldiers with questionable allegiances and Dar Salim and Erik Enge as warriors holding fast to the mission. Because of Caroline’s understandable obsession with winning this all costs, conflicts arise and confrontations jeopardize the payload.

Making Black Crab, however, about any war instead of this particular war, and this particular version of a hollowed-out future, turns what could have been a movie worthy of repeat viewing into “fine” fare. Still, the visuals crackle, from the harsh blinding whites of the frosty fog to the glowing blues of nighttime ice. Black Crab has a premise that should have been carried strongly across the finish line instead of being interrupted and altered. The performances are all hardened and grizzled enough to make you believe in this shattered realm but the film should have settled on an firm war narrative rather than dilute our interests.

Author: Matt Fowler. [Source Link (*), IGN All]