Fortunately, this is not the “Prayer of the Rollerboys”.
By Rob Hunter Published 19 March 2022
Noomi Rapace achieved international success with the release of The girl with the dragon tattoo trilogy (2009), and she’s kept busy in the years since with movies that lean more towards the genre. Prometheus (2012), Lamb (2021), and The trip (2021) are among the highlights, and now she is returning to her homeland for the Swedish action film, black crab. Yes, the title is a misstep, but the film itself is a small-scale effort that feels bigger than it is thanks to the striking visuals and thought-provoking ideas.
Caroline Edh (Rapace) is driving with her daughter when traffic stops and gunshots ring out in the tunnel. Soon gunmen begin targeting cars and their occupants, and when they reach Edh, his world goes black. An indeterminate amount of time later, she is a soldier fighting in a civil war that has broken out in Sweden. The political beliefs and motivations of either side are unstated, but it is clear that the country has crumbled under the weight and chaos of war. Edh is brought in with a small group of others on an important mission whose superiors promise to end the war for good – they must cross a frozen lake on ice skates, secure two small canisters from a base at the north, then transport them to the front line. She knows it’s a suicide mission, but the promise her daughter awaits at the final destination is all the motivation she needs to tackle the mission no questions asked.
black crab — a mediocre title for an action movie, but one that references the mission the soldiers are embarking on — limits the spectacle while providing intense action beats along the way. We never see full-scale combat, but it’s more than obvious that the whole country is at war. Director Adam Bergwho also co-wrote with Excavator Radström (an adaptation of Jerker Virdborg‘s novel), finds energy and beauty in what could have been a silly detail as the film’s skating scenes take on a power of their own.
It’s no Prayer of the Rollerboys (1990), the post-apocalyptic blunder of a film starring Corey Haim as a roller-skating warrior for the future, because instead he takes ice skating very seriously. It allows the small team to move close to enemy lines with less chance of attracting attention, and the shots of skating against the sky filled with the sights and sounds of war are gripping. Equally impressive are the sequences that unfold in near-silence with only the sound of metal slicing through ice to accompany visuals showing the unit in motion. Director of Photography Jonas Alarik does a fantastic job of capturing the loneliness and isolation on the night ice – a scene of them encountering hundreds of civilians frozen in the ice, the victims of a sinking ship left to float and die, is a beauty mesmerizing – and it shifts gears effortlessly as the volume cranks up to the sound of gunfire.
The action scenes hit in short bursts, both of engagements with enemy soldiers and an attack from above, and manage to keep black crab in the action movie camp. A helicopter targets them on the ice leading to a frenzied effort to fight and flee, and a subsequent sequence on a hill increases the intensity even further as they first attack an enemy bunker and then are forced to defend it. The film lacks the scale and budget to pull off big sets, but the smaller beats that punctuate the film get the blood flowing.
black crab, like many war movies, has reflections on the nature of war, and they balance well with the action and plot sequences. The morality of killing – enemy combatants, civilians, indiscriminately – takes center stage as truths about the mission are revealed. The film challenges its characters in interesting ways regarding both the motivations for their actions and the cost of those same choices. Performances are strong across the board, but Rapace once again launches into her turn as a woman with little to live for but plenty of anger to fuel that life all the same.
As Netflix original movies, black crab avoid the cg bloat of action movies made in usa for the streamer – i’m looking at you 6 Underground (2019) and red notice (2021) – to deliver smaller, more entertaining beats balanced with character and story. It’s bound to get a lot less attention because of it (well, for that and the need for subtitles), which is such a shame. Fans of smaller, more challenging action movies should give it a spin.
Related Topics: Black Crab, Netflix
Rob Hunter has been writing for Film School Rejects since before you were born, which is weird considering he’s so young. He is our Chief Film Critic and Associate Editor and cites “Broadcast News” as his favorite film of all time. Don’t hesitate to say hello if you see him on Twitter @FakeRobHunter.