Netflix’s latest bears all the familiar hallmarks of a dystopian thriller. Nebulously defined wars. Militarized civilians tasked with a perilous quest guaranteed to dwindle their numbers. Unforgiving terrain as inhospitable as the enemy. A bleak, desolate tone. Black Crab attempts to set itself apart with an unconventional mode of transportation, ice skating, and the always compelling Noomi Rapace. Neither can rise above the standard, nondescript narrative or breathe new life into a by-the-numbers thriller.

Sweden’s civil war has ripped a daughter away from former speed skater Caroline Edh (Rapace) and turned her into a hardened soldier. As the battle rages on, threatening complete genocide for her losing side, she’s enlisted with a dangerous mission to transport mysterious canisters across a frozen archipelago with five other recruits. The group faces insurmountable odds and mortal danger, with no safe bet for survival.

black crab trailer netflix

Director Adam Berg’s feature debut, co-written by Pelle Rådström and based on a novel by Jerker Virdborg, occasionally demonstrates strong composition. An early scene that sees six skaters escaping blazing gunfire in the background, silhouetted by a dusky sky, teases a stunning thriller that never comes to pass. So, too, does the imagery of corpses trapped in ice, like an arctic graveyard, for the group to navigate. But Berg opts to keep most of his thriller relegated to a flat, dreary grey look as dismal as the mood and set pieces to become as nondescript as the entire setup.

Everything hinges entirely on Rapace’s Caroline to engender rooting interest. The cause of the war is never explained, nor is the enemy ever defined. We’re just dropped in the middle of a mindless, raging battle that’s seemingly left the world in an endless, wintry conflict fueled by general hate. Black Crab does the bare minimum to flesh out Caroline’s allies. Only Rapace gets an arc, and it’s a relatively small one as she’s driven by a singular, unwavering purpose. It makes it tough to care when those allies start dying, even when the deaths are used in a jarring demonstration of how ruthless Caroline can be to reach her goals.

Everyone’s a bit too disposable to add tension or stakes. It makes the entire thing rather rote and predictable. The novel idea of ice skating does inject a few unique action sequences, but Black Crab frequently drops it for more familiar terrain. An attempt to shake things up by interjecting a moral dilemma in the third act fails to impact or add any excitement into the mix. Caroline may be tough as nails, but she’s ten steps behind the viewer. Rapace does the best she can with what she’s given but can’t rise above the superficial material.

Ultimately, Black Crab makes for a serviceable but forgettable experience. A few fleeting glimpses of something more get swept away by an avalanche of uninspired choices and plot beats. There are no surprises in store, just a one-note thriller that never wavers in its commitment to a gloomy but extremely vague dystopia.

Black Crab releases on Netflix on March 18, 2022.

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