Black’s Game


This fast paced Icelandic film set in Reykjavik is not one for the squeamish or faint of heart. Full of jerky freeze frames, collages and throbbing techno it is not wholly original but it does have an appeal of its own despite this. Directed by Oskar Thur Axelsson and featuring a great lead role played by Thor Kristjansen it does not hold back and from the off its statement of intent is clear as we are instantly propelled into a violent storm which results in central protagonist Stebbi-soon to be re-christened Psycho Stebbi-finding himself in prison for aggravated assault. This is only the beginning however of his descent into the tawdry underside of Reykjavik with its buffed up, tattooed drug tsars and their own set of laws and morals.

On his release the morning after he commits the assault Stebbi bumps into an old acquaintance, Toti, who offers to help him find a lawyer whilst at the same time introducing him into the inner circle of the demi-monde controlling the underworld. His ascent within the ranks is instantaneous and soon he is captivated by this lifestyle of designer suits, grade a drugs, liquor and constantly available women. There is, of course, a price to pay for this and in this case it is having to deal with the ever evolving demands of head honcho the darkly malevolent Bruno who is the true psychotic of the piece. .In comparison Stebbi comes across as an innocent deeply out of his depth despite the Psycho prefix to his moniker

A simple act of carelessness on Stebbi’s part however leads to the police gaining access to the inner circle and his position is compromised as they ask him to act as informer whilst also letting him know they already have an informer within the ranks already and this merely feeds the paranoia of everyone involved. Things reach a climactic outcome and events rush toward a bloody conclusion taking few prisoners along the way.

As stated before this film does not hold back in any way but this is to its advantage and the characters are all well thought out,  and if not all are wholly rounded they are  not merely one dimensional.  A collage of childhood photos at the beginning of the film is a clever touch and reminds us that even psychopathic, hardened criminals were once children. It is details like this alongside the compelling performances which raise the level of this film above the standard fare of what is fast becoming an overworked genre.

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