BLACK SEA REVIEW

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Like the submarine, it’s dark, too long and rusty in all the wrong places.

I didn’t want the cast to walk the plank. Just the writer.

Jude Law was fantastic. I’ve always rated him as an actor. He plays the gruffly Scot Captain Robinson well. His accent was very good and he delivers enough charisma to hold his own against a talented cast of misfits.

So what’s it about? In order to make good with his former employers, a submarine captain (Law) takes a job with a shadowy backer to search the depths of the Black Sea for a submarine rumoured to be loaded with gold.

The running length was far too long. It’s gritty, at times claustrophobic and suspenseful but to be honest if it wasn’t for Law and Mendelsohn, I fear this film would have sunk faster than its naval counterpart.

The opening was painfully slow. Law did his best to keep things watchable and we feel for his character after being made redundant.

However, a plan is already in motion. A dangerous heist that could pay out big. 82 million to each participant.

Yes, that’s right. Nazi gold just sitting in a shipwreck. A shipwreck that happens to lie in the darkest, deepest regions of the ocean. Easy.

The set up was terrible. Forcing relationships between ship mates to make them more relatable.

The cliched exchanges between Konstantin Khabenskiy (Night Watch), Daniel Ryan (Mount Pleasant) and Law were so boring and unnecessary.

It felt hammy and drawn out. Writer Dennis Kelly tried to pump some life into the characters but it just didn’t work.

If Daniel Ryan’s character wasn’t so pessimistic and had that “I don’t think I can do this” expression smacked all over his face, I might have been surprised that he would turn out not to be in the rest of the film.

Tobias Menzies (Game of Thrones) had the easiest job going as the “shadowy businessman”. I mean, come on. Look at him. He’s look like a shady politician. Throw in a scowl and he’s done.

Five minutes of empty threats and predictable guff about failing to deliver and that’s goodbye from him.

Instead, we get a wimpering Scoot McNairy (Monsters). Don’t get me wrong, he plays it well. He was just irritating. Forced by Mr Shady (no, not Eminem) to protect his investment and join the crew.

Jodie Whittaker (Broadchurch) was reduced to nothing more than featuring in some dreary dream sequences or being stalked by Law. Nothing was really made of their relationship at all. A missed opportunity that her character just as redundant as her husband.

Once they got into the sub, things got a little more interesting. Just.

Director Kevin Macdonald (The Last King of Scotland) captured the claustrophobic setting of the submarine perfectly.

Robinson’s runts featured the likes of David Threlfall (Shameless), Michael Smiley (He will always be Tyres from Spaced) and the legendary Ben Mendelsohn (Starred Up).

The inevitable friction already brewing between the crew before they even descended.

Mendelsohn was superb as the volatile Fraser. The perfect catalyst to get things going. A ticking time bomb.

The predictable bust up looming in the cards still managed to surprise me.

I expected a little punch up BUT what happened instead was the much needed oomph I was craving for.

And for another 20 minutes or so, I got into the film.

Unfortunately the film has only really has a few moments of brilliance. The sequence in which they are evading other submarines and transporting the gold was suspenseful enough. It was tense, and watchable.

Wondering whom the ocean would take next into the dark abyss.

BUT what didn’t help was that the murky darkness was surprisingly too dark to see anything. If not for Law’s commentary, I wouldn’t have had a clue what they were doing.

Grigoriy Dobrygin (A Most Wanted Man) was highly unmemorable. I kept hoping he would do something. Bar the final three minutes, I would have said he was completely useless. Silently stewing in the background while fondling his beard.

Bobby Schofield didn’t do too a bad job as he took his first proper feature role as the young outcast Tobin.

His introduction helped provide a little more depth to the crew and eased up this incredibly droll and all too serious affair.

The crew banter was quite good. A naive Tobin standing with a squeegee and bucket asking, “Where are the windows?”.

However, the whole father/son vibe between him and Robinson’s Law was a little cheesy. BUT you just about routed for them.

The pace and story just didn’t justify the 114 minute running time. Not enough going on.

It didn’t help that the explosive finale got things going again and then just ended. Abruptly and predictably.

Shame.

It wasn’t all bad but it wasn’t that great either.

2/5

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GET SANTA REVIEW

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Get on it!

Jim Broadbent dons the red suit and white beard and leads a sterling British cast in this fun (but flawed) Christmas cracker.

Writer/director Christopher Smith has taken the same old Santa spiel and re-worked it into something quite different and entertaining.

So what’s it all about? (Besides the obvious implications of the title) A father (Rafe Spall) and son (Kit Connor) team up to save Christmas after discovering Santa Claus (Broadbent) sleeping in their garage and on the run from the police.

A breath of fresh air! I was surprised at how little this film was marketed at the cinemas. It’s not without it’s imperfections but I can certainly commend it’s originality. Execution on the other hand? Ho, ho, ho, here we go.

Broadbent brings St Nick to life brilliantly and delivered the charm by the stocking full. He was everything I expected. Funny, endearing and entertaining. It always helps in these family holiday films to have a likeable cast.

Connor (An impressive debut from the little chap) and Spall (X + Y) were fantastic together. They played the parts well and made the father/son dynamic work.

Spall’s dead pan delivery certainly made for some cracking one liners. His reaction when Tom tells him he’s found SC in the garage; “Are you in the garage with a man? Pass the phone to your mum”. Priceless.

The prison angle was a fresh take. Recently released from prison, Steve is desperate to be a good dad. Little does he know that his prison ties will be more important than ever. His quest for redemption certainly had a little more substance to the usual Christmas father/son squabbles.

The idea of SC incarcerated was a perfect platform for some fun gags. I smiled a lot more than I expected and was surprised at the stars that popped up in this.

Matt King (Super Hands from Peep Show) featured as a miserable and unsatisfied prison guard. To be honest, his character was nowhere near as good as I hoped. If anything, he was a little flat. Even the OTT comical punch up between him and Warwick Davis (Harry Potter) left little to be desired.

Davis, on the other hand, was quite good. Of course, lazy elf gags galore were thrown at the poor chap but his retorts and sarcastic jibes made up for it.

And what was Combo from This is England doing in this?! Stephen Graham’s turn as The Barber was an unexpected delight. Good to see he can still have a laugh and that he’s not too big for the small Brit pics. His tough guy training sesh with Broadbent was almost worth the ticket alone.

I was in stitches watching ol’ SC strutting around the gaff with corn locks. Throw in a cheeky slow mo tough guy montage to a bit of Ice Cube for good measure? Yes please.

Joanna Scanlan (Stella) played the delightfully unpleasant parole officer with aplomb. BUT apart from stomping about and carrying a toad in tow (You read that right), she didn’t really do much else.

Jodie Whittaker (Broadchurch) was wasted in her role. Apart from a few awkward exchanges (and rightly so) between her character and Steve, she didn’t really pop back up until the final moments.

The reindeer were quite funny for the little ‘uns. Especially the deceptive Dasher (who manages to break into vans without explanation). He can’t talk but he can communicate. And of course being a children’s movie, he does so by farting. That’s right. Communicating through farts (Come on, we’re better than that).

Although Spall trying to remain serious as the furry critters trumped away was quite funny.

Ewen Bremner (Trainspotting) was really irritating as the over-enthusiastic and deluded PC Finkerton. He did my nut in.

Unfortunately, for every clever little prison gag, there were a dozen recycled ones. BUT there was still fun to be had. A cheeky Shawshank Redemption reference shouldn’t have worked but it got a little nod from me.

For the little ‘uns, you have Big Nick firing a tommy gun of reindeer droppings in a high speed police chase.

The animation was a little cartoony for me. Especially in the letter tunnel when Steve and Tom are transported to Lapland. BUT their sleigh ride was brilliantly captured. Santa’s gadgets were quite cool. His slinky/chimney expander was a nifty little trinket.

I know it’s a Christmas film BUT it skimmed through a number of plot holes. Look, I’m prepared to except all the rubbish about SC and the reindeer flight paths (It’s a kids film after all) BUT breaking out of secure prisons so flippantly? Come on now.

It wrapped things up a little too quickly. For a moment, I wondered if Smith was going to play on the “Is he/isn’t he SC?” spiel a little more as Steve fears that he’s helping a chap who is nothing more than a petty criminal.

I loved its originality but was a little disappointed in its execution as it raced to its shamefully predictable, corny and rushed finale.

BUT I had a lot more fun than I expected and it wasn’t the worst way to kill 90 minutes.

2.5/5.