Netflix has built up an extensive catalogue of Nordic films and series, but unfortunately not all of them are equally entertaining. The Swedish thriller Black Crab is definitely at the lower end of the quality scale.
The script, written by director Adam Berg, is based on a dystopian novel by Jerker Virdborg and takes us to a bleak, almost post-apocalyptic Sweden occupied by a fascist foreign military force.
It is never explicitly stated who the oppressive occupying power is, but it is more than hinted that it is our powerful neighbour to the east that is behind this hell on (Swedish) earth; a timely theme in that respect, given Russia’s ongoing “liberation” of Ukraine.
Unfortunately, the plot, characters and storyline are as old-fashioned as The Cold War – but nowhere near as exciting!
The action is set in the near future, where a few hardy guerrilla fighters continue the fight, eyeing a hope of crushing the superior enemy, led by the uncompromising veteran Colonel Raad (David Dencik, The Chestnut Man). They recruit the tough Caroline Edh (Noomi Rapace, Prometheus, Men Who Hate Women) and the professional soldier Nylund (Oftebro), as well as a motley group of mercenaries, to deliver an unknown “package” into the middle of the enemy camp.
The challenge is to get across the ice in safety. On traditional skates, the group must cover some 100 miles (!) in open country and over uncertain ice – without drowning, freezing to death and/or being shot to smithereens by the enemy. Internal tensions do not make the task any less demanding.
From the novel it appears that the world is partly destroyed by climate change and war, without climate becoming an important element in the film. The climatic collapse of the world has plunged the North into an almost endless winter, which provides the basis for an exciting game of war and cold as well as some intense action scenes. But the film fails to deliver on most counts.
Scenographically, however, the crab hunt offers some truly gorgeous scenes of Nordic winter nights and frozen ice in a magical cold blue light. The cinematography really unfolds and is the one that impresses the most. Unfortunately, too many of the scenes, especially the snow scenes, look like they were shot in the studio – plastic-like and overly artificial.
Far worse are the one-dimensional characters, the hopeless, unbelievable plot-twists and the long-winded dialogue. It’s so grim that at every moment we expect Jean-Claude Van Damme or Dolph Lundgren to emerge roaring from a corner with an automatic rifle in each hand. Which would actually have been a relief.
The normally rock-solid Noomi Rapace seems disengaged and uncomfortable in the role of clichéd badass action heroine. Nor is she helped much by her co-stars, all of whom are constrained by template character traits and embarrassingly flat dramaturgy.
Too often the film comes across as more head shakingly comic than exciting and virile. We note that Netflix has served up the first, icy flop of the year. Steer clear! Two stars.
Black Crab will premiere globally on Netflix on March 18.
- Release: 18 March 2022
- Directed by: Adam Berg
- Starring: Noomi Rapace, Jakob Oftebro, David Dencik, Dar Salim, Erik Enge, Ardalan Esmaili, Aliette Opheim
- Genre: Thriller
- Country: Sweden
- Year: 2022
- Time: 1:51 hours