Fantasia 2012 Review: BLACK'S GAME

Andrew Mack, Contributing Writer
Reykjavic, Iceland. 1999. Stebbi Psycho finds himself in desperate need of a lawyer after a drunken brawl. Outside the courtroom he crosses paths with childhood friend Tóti once a minister's kid who is now a hardened thug with excellent legal connections. He promises Stebbi that he will get him connected to a lawyer that can get him cleared of the charges in exchange for "a favour". That favour plunges Stebbi straight into the heart of a small gang ready to become the most brutal and powerful kings of Iceland's drug trade. Soon the small time drug trading is never enough and the risks escalate. The drugs get harder. The schemes grow bigger. Everything had been laid back and only occasionally violent up until now. But, with the arrival of a new and menacing leader Bruno that is about to change and escalate out of control.

Writer and director Óskar Thór Axelsson combines all his favorite influences from crime cinema over the years (Scorcese, Tarantino, Ritchie and Refn come to mind) with his feature debut. Though the film promises at the beginning that it was 'inspired by some shit that really happened' the themes and flow of the narrative to its inevitable conclusion still feel awfully familiar. It should be noted that even the author of the novel from which this film is adapted from, Stefan Mani and his novel Svartur á leik, have been described by critics as Tarantino-esque. The films influences are worn on the sleeves of the finely tailored suits of its characters.

Despite all that though there is an undeniable energy in Black's Game that still engages the audience and is still a thrilling look at the Icelandic underworld. The acts of violence, both physical and sexual, still shock and Axelsson even manages to throw in some original imagery that will not soon be forgotten. Axelsson has crafted his trade over the years as a cinematographer with a number of short films so looking great is never an issue. If anything Black's Game proves that Axelsson can handle a big production and could also prove to be an excellent choice as a director for hire in the years to come. Iceland has a ways to go before it can compete with European crime thriller leaders like Norway and Sweden but Axelsson is capable of helping lead that charge to the top!
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