Wobbly wintery war pic Black Crab can’t skate by on a few good ideas


A near-future Sweden wracked by war is the setting for Netflix’s Black Crab, starring Noomi Rapace. Its cool ideas are let down by many problems, making for yet another very forgettable direct-to-streaming release, writes Daniel Rutledge.

Black Crab

Streaming Now
  • Netflix

If you’ve always wanted to see a small group of reluctant mercenaries ice skate a MacGuffin over a frozen sea, Black Crab is for you. Set in an unexplained near-future war in wintertime Sweden, the tone throughout is extremely serious, despite being almost cartoonish in how silly a lot of the story is. A shocking prologue sets the mood with soldiers attacking civilians in an act of terror that explains Noomi Rapace’s lead character’s almost inhumanly cold mindset for everything that comes after. Keep in mind that what comes after involves a lot of ice skating.

The most interesting storytelling element is never explaining anything about the war that is ravaging Sweden. Both sides appear Swedish, desperate and ruthless, willing to kill anyone and seemingly destroy the country—possibly even the world—to win. Never knowing why the conflict is happening, who the belligerents are or any big-picture details may piss some viewers off, but I liked it. In a lot of history’s wars, the soldier on the ground doesn’t know all the whys and wherefores. They only know they’ve been ordered to use this weapon to kill those people over there or else they’ll be killed, either by the enemy or for being a deserter.

Throwing the viewer into this position and keeping them there for the entire running time is a cool idea. Also cool are some of the stunning examples of cinematography as the soldiers skate on ice through the night with warfare raging in the background. There’s also a fair few gnarly moments of violence, some scenes of delicious tension building and a wonderful performance from Noomi Rapace in the lead.

But this film has a lot of problems. The mix of silly and serious feels off to me, even though by not being based on a real war it avoids being offensive. Some combat sequences are incoherent jumbles of rapid edits that bore when they should excite. If you’ve seen other films about a small group of ragtag heroes transporting something unknown and dangerous across a deadly terrain, well you’ll guess many of the plot beats in this one, and recognise what’s going to happen in most scenes as soon as they start.

Then the third act character development is really dumb in a way that makes a lot of what we’ve seen before it a waste of time anyway. It also yearns to be something much more profound than it is capable of, failing pretty badly at what it ultimately says about humanity, heroism and conflict.

The crappy ending is especially disappointing as it squanders so much of the intensity that was built up earlier. Asking viewers to suddenly care about the larger stakes of the world and the pointlessness of the war we’ve just witnessed doesn’t work when we know nothing about it. The early promise of stripping away all that sort of morality tale shit and keeping it stripped back to basic survival thrills would’ve been far more satisfying. Still, it’s an interesting, mostly bleak thriller that has plenty of good bits, even if they all just amount to yet another very forgettable direct-to-streaming release.

Black Crab

Streaming Now
  • Netflix