Svartur á leik [Black’s Game] (2012)

Svartur á leik
Director: Óskar Thór Axelsson
Writer: Óskar Thór Axelsson
Based on: Stefán Máni‘s novel
Cast: Thor Kristjansson, Jóhannes Haukur Jóhannesson, Damon Younger, María Birta, Vignir Rafn Valþórsson, Egill Einarsson
Part of: /slash Filmfestival’s slashing Europe [The /slash Filmestival needs help! Please support genre movies in Austria, if you can.]

Reykjavik, 1999. After a drunken brawl, Stebbi (Thor Kristjansson) gets arrested. Coming out of the police station, he runs into Tóti (Jóhannes Haukur Jóhannesson), a childhood friend. Tóti promises Stebbi help with the charges against him, in return for a favor. Said favor throws Stebbi quickly and deeply into the Icelandic drug trade, which Tóti tries to take over together with Bruno (Damon Younger).

Svartur á leik is a very straightforward film. Maybe it’s even a tad too straightforward: I just kept waiting for a bit more twistiness or a kind of edge. Nevertheless I really enjoyed myself.

The most outstanding thing about this film is certainly its setting. I mean, it’s not often that you get films from Iceland, so that was already pretty cool on its own. But having it set in 1999 was pretty fun, too. There were some nice nods in several directions, some of which you didn’t even need to be Icelandic for to understand.

Apart from that setting, the film is just so direct and classic that you can’t help but wish that there was at least a little element of surprise.

Not that the film wasn’t entertaining as it was: it’s well-paced and fun and rather gruesome in the right places. [On a sidenote: One of those gruesome scenes was a rape scene that, again, made people laugh. I don’t get that reaction. There really was nothing funny about it, it wasn’t played for laughs and yet that was going on. At least it wasn’t everybody, but stuff like that makes me hate people a little bit. But that’s not the movie’s fault.]

Put altogether I did enjoy myself, though I probably won’t go running to try and find the book it’s based on.

Summarising: If you like gangster movies, you can do way worse.


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