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Black Sea: "The shit is fighting back"

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There are three kinds of January movies: the prestige films that opened in a few theaters in December to qualify for the Academy Awards and are just now reaching the rest of the country; the burn-offs, like the latest epic from the Wachowski siblings, which was supposed to be released last summer; and the movies that seem to be made for January, like Jennifer Lopez's schlocky The Boy Next Door or the submarine caper story Black Sea.

Made-for-January movies usually feature a well-known actor in the kind of undemanding production you can watch while making out, getting high or having a text message argument. Black Sea stars Jude Law, in character actor mode and effectively affecting an Aberdeen, Scotland accent. Law plays a submarine captain named Robinson who just got sacked. He's angry because "They think we're shit ..." and vows "This time the shit is fighting back!" which I believe will someday be considered one of the greatest movie lines of all time.

Seems that there's a sunken German U-boat in the Black Sea filled with an astounding number of gold bricks. Stalin had intended to use the gold for some kind of bribe. Due to territorial disputes and wars and stuff, nobody ever retrieved the fortune over the decades. Captain Robinson decides to do it and gathers together a crew of tough guys, including a few Russians. He invites a fresh-faced local kid (Bobby Schofield) to join them so he can get paternal later, and his mysterious financier insists on sending a representative (Scoot McNairy) to keep an eye on things. The rep is oily, like Paul Reiser in Aliens. He's also claustrophobic, because somebody's got to be.

So there's your set-up; Treasure of the Sierra Madre in a rusty submarine and there's nothing wrong with that. Director Kevin Macdonald (The Last King of Scotland) handles the goings-on in a straightforward fashion, with Ilan Eshkeri's score doing about what you'd expect. Jude Law appears to enjoy doing the accent and being the film's Jason Statham. He gets to have some flashbacks about the family he lost by spending too much time at sea. He gets to protect the kid when some of the crew deem him a virgin and declare it's bad luck to have a virgin on a submarine. Funny, I heard that it was bad luck to load a submarine with hotheads and psychos.

As is not uncommon with a made-for-January movie, the story gets more and more implausible as it rolls on. I noted the ridiculous moments as they piled up, but they didn't bother me much. I think the ever-building melodrama was juicy enough to make the nonsense palatable. Or maybe I was just feeling emotional watching the shit fighting back.

Related Film

Black Sea

Official Site: www.blackseafilm.com

Director: Kevin Macdonald

Writer: Dennis Kelly

Cast: Jude Law, Scoot McNairy, Ben Mendelsohn, Konstantin Khabenskiy, Michael Smiley, Jodie Whittaker and Karl Davies

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