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Arts & Culture

Good Actors Adrift In 'Black Sea'

Pictured is Jude Law who plays a sub captain facing more danger from a bad script than a rickety Russian sub in "Black Sea."
Focus Features
Pictured is Jude Law who plays a sub captain facing more danger from a bad script than a rickety Russian sub in "Black Sea."

A Lazy Script Ultimately Sinks Action Thriller

Companion Viewing

"Run Silent, Run Deep" (1958)

"Das Boot" (1981)

"Dom Hemingway" (2014)

Submarines make for tense, claustrophobic settings and “Black Sea” (opening Jan. 30 in select San Diego theaters) takes us on an old Russian sub where plenty can go wrong.

“Black Sea” doesn’t use war as the backdrop for its submarine tale. Instead, it looks to the world of salvaging at sea and a submarine captain who’s just been laid off. Robinson (Jude Law) has been unceremoniously let go from the company he’s devoted his life to for almost a decade. He claims his job has cost him his marriage, and now he faces a future without family or steady employment. Then a buddy suggests a wild scheme: get some backers and head off to the Black Sea to search for a sunken treasure of Nazi gold.

“Black Sea” is part gritty working-class drama, part deep sea adventure, and part corporate thriller. It takes a motley crew of men in varying states of desperation, places them on a sub in search of millions in gold, and then pits them against each other as greed and physical hardship set in. The film engages us through a likable, credible cast led by Law and the inherent tension of being hundreds of feet underwater in a rickety, old Russian sub.

But the problem – and it is a big one – is that the script by Dennis Kelly is lazy and takes shortcuts to prompt each of its twists and turns. Characters must act in jaw-droppingly stupid ways and often contrary to their own personalities in order to move the story forward and increase conflict. It’s frustrating to see a good cast and a technically well-crafted film sunk by a script that has no respect for its characters or logic.

“Black Sea” (rated R for language throughout, some graphic images and violence) wastes a lot of acting talent and money to deliver an action thriller in which the greatest tension revolves around who will act the most stupid next. This is a case where the dangers of the ocean depths prove far less lethal than a screenwriter with a lack of imagination and intelligence.