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Netflix’s “Black Crab” is a bleak and depressing post-apocalyptic action thriller that can’t help but leave the audience a little cold.

Ahh, Netflix. It’s the streaming service everyone loves to hate. Canceller of great series, slave to the corporate drive of “new subscribers at all costs”, and now the unofficial home of mid-budget action flicks.

From Triple Frontier, which featured the likes of Ben Affleck, Charlie Hunnam, and Oscar Isaac, to Extraction, which saw Chris Hemsworth trading in his hammer for assault rifles, Netflix somehow excels at these enjoyable albeit forgettable action escapades.

And the less said about 6 Underground the better…

But now there’s a new kid on the block, a Swedish post-apocalyptic action/thriller called Black Crab. Helmed by Adam Berg, who only has a few films under his belt (and one DHL commercial), based on the book by Jerker Virdborg, and starring the ridiculously talented Noomi Rapace, Black Crab does an admirable job of trying something different.

But does it earn a spot in the pantheon of “hey, that wasn’t bad” Netflix action movies? Ultimately, that’s a bit of a loaded question.

At first blush, Black Crab seems to have a lot going for it. The trailer is pretty cool, Noomi Rapace is a recognizable star, and the overall concept for the film is actually quite solid.

As IMDb puts it: In a post-apocalyptic world, six soldiers on a covert mission must transport a mysterious package across a frozen archipelago.

And that is very much the movie we are given.

It’s a rather straightforward affair, with very few twists or turns in the narrative.

I mean, let’s be honest, we’ve seen the “mismatched soldiers on a mission” movie a hundred times. At this point, it’s rather difficult to throw something new into the mix.

But, to its credit, Black Crab sure does try to deliver a slightly different premise.

Yes, we’ve seen people on this kind of suicidal delivery mission before. But we HAVEN’T seen them ice-skating across the ocean to do so. And sure, it’s kind of a gimmick. But it also works. When attempting to get behind enemy lines, who would think to look for soldiers on the frozen sea?

And that big patch of frozen ocean is where Black Crab gets the most out of its mileage.

Crossing a frozen lake can be perilous enough, but a whole segment of the ocean? Miles and miles of it? Now that is tense in and of itself. Add in interpersonal strife between the soldiers, enemy troops, and helicopters, plus thin & breakable ice, and that tension becomes palpable.

And a BIG kudos is due to the film for making near-freezing water highly dangerous, a fact which many movies seem to neglect.

As the star, Noomi Rapace brings one hell of a solid and emotional performance, even if said emotions are sometimes only visible in her expressive eyes.

I have yet to see a bad performance from her, and there are few actresses willing to put so much into a role. Just her presence elevates this film.

She has done a few other action films for Netflix in the past and certainly knows her way around playing a badass.

Of course, her performance isn’t on the same level that she brought in The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo movie, as well as its sequels. Nor could it be. She plays a much less complicated character here, with really only one motivating factor.

The other characters in Black Crab are almost more broad strokes than fully realized three-dimensional people. There’s the gruff leader, the world-weary veteran with gallows humor, the young and innocent recruit, and the fish-out-of-water guy. Exactly the team you expect, hitting all the requisite beats.

Not that they give bad performances or anything. Far from it. It’s just they are rarely offered a chance to be more than mere plot devices or stock caricatures. But then again, such is par for the course for these kinds of films.

One place where the movie truly shines is in the production. The post-apocalyptic setting is very well realized, with destroyed city centers and shantytowns being highly evocative of Children of Men.

There are more than a few striking moments in Black Crab; the heroes skating away from their base as it’s being bombarded is one of the highlights, as is a scene where they happen upon bodies frozen in the ice (the after-effects of a shipwreck in freezing temperatures).

Indeed, for its first half, Black Crab really feels like it’s going to be amazing.

But soon enough the cracks start to show.

For being a movie about crossing a frozen ocean, there are quite a few moments where our heroes are on solid land. Enemy soldiers just kind of appear out of nowhere sometimes, even though they are supposedly traversing the same featureless expanse as the protagonists. How did our heroes not see them?

A run-in with some elderly locals who refuse to leave their home is reminiscent of a vaguely similar scene with an elderly couple from The Book of Eli. Which, if we are being honest, is a much better post-apocalyptic story than what we have here.

At a runtime of nearly two hours, Black Crab does start to wear out its welcome after a while.

Especially since there is, in all honesty, little to no humor to be found here…just a bleak coldness that never lets up. And the audience is never clued into just who the enemy really is, an ambiguity that ultimately hurts the film. It’s hard to get invested in our protagonists when their opponents are just a nebulous “them”.

The action comes in fits and starts, staying relatively grounded in reality, which was appreciated. Winter combat always looks cool (pun intended) and Black Crab scratches that itch a bit.

Unfortunately, I always wanted just a little more than the movie provides.

That said, the last third of the movie ditches much of what came prior, opting more for a psychological thriller vibe, with the action getting shuffled to the back-burner. And the ending is harshly nihilistic.

I understand why it ends the way it does, and I always have respect when a film deviates from the expected “Hollywood” ending.

But damn…what a downer.

Cinematography, sound design, props, and costumes are all on point. Everyone looks the part, that’s for sure. The sounds of frozen and cracking ice are captured quite well.

I opted to watch the film in its original Swedish, with English subtitles, and there were no issues to report.

Special mention does need to go, however, to the exceptional soundtrack by Dead People. It’s a dark-synthwave lover’s paradise and really does enhance the overall atmosphere of the movie. The entire album has been in semi-constant rotation on my Spotify since I watched the movie, and is one of my favorite overall releases of 2022 so far.

All in all, BLACK CRAB is a decent entry into the “straight-to-streaming” action movie ranks, albeit one that likely won’t garner a re-watch. Come for the ice antics and Noomi Rapace, stay for the amazing soundtrack. Just don’t expect a sequel, because that ending is rough.

Overall Rating (Out of 5 Butterflies): 3

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