Black Sea (2014) / Adventure-Thriller
MPAA Rated: R for language throughout, some graphic images and violence
Running Time: 115 min.
Cast: Jude Law, Scoot McNairy, Ben Mendelsohn, Grigoriy Dobrygin, Karl Davies, Konstantin Khabenskiy, Tobias Menzies, David Threlfall, Michael Smiley
Director: Kevin Macdonald
Screenplay: Dennis Kelly
Review published February 3, 2015
Somewhere in the Black Sea, there is a sunken Nazi U-boat that reportedly contains untold millions of dollars worth of gold. A recently laid-off ex-Navy submarine captain named Robinson (Law, Side Effects) is approached by a colleague who tips him off about the whereabouts of the sub, suggesting he find the funding to independently take his own sub down to the depths to retrieve whatever loot he can gather. Gathering his own selection of British have-nots, he must also take on half a crew of Russian men to assist them with the rusty Russian submarine they've chartered for the mission. Tensions flare as the two factions don't trust one another, and Robinson's declaration that they will all split the treasure equally has the men on edge, knowing that the less of them there are, the more of a share they will get.
Black Sea is an underwater adventure-thriller directed with adequate tenseness by Kevin Macdonald (How I Live Now, The Eagle), containing a fierce Jude Law performance (though with an iffy, and probably needless, Scottish (Aberdonian) accent). Law is the only box-office name, but he's solid, as is the rest of the supporting cast of international actors, who are all puffed-out machismo and nose-to-nose antagonism.
Macdonald continuously finds ways to ratchet up the testosterone and sweat-releasing tension to armrest-gripping levels, working from the twisty script from first-time feature screenwriter Dennis Kelly. Shades of The Treasure of the Sierra Madre come out, as severely disgruntled Robinson's mania to get the gold increases, set up well in the story; he's a man who gave up his family for the company that gave him the axe, and this gold means he won't have to be anyone's patsy again (perhaps he might even get his family back?) -- it's worth dying for, though the crew doesn't always agree. They've all been screwed over and discarded by the powers that be, and they're fed up, none more so than Robinson, whose memory of the wife and child he lost in the pursuit of his career stings bitterly in his mind.
Although the story isn't always believable, and the exposition is a bit ham-fistedly obvious at times, Macdonald manages to escalate the claustrophobic suspense on what happens sufficiently that you're not likely to get too taken out of the moment when various contrivances do occur. Don't sweat the small and illogical details so much and you'll likely come away rewarded by good, suspenseful action and interesting class-driven subtext about greed, both corporate and independent, and the lengths one will go in order to obtain even more wealth. It's a class-A B-movie.
©2015 Vince Leo