1. Among its producers is Nicolas Winding Refn, the filmmaker who steered Drive straight to the top of my list of 2011’s best films.
2. It opens with a title card that translates to “BASED ON REAL HARDCORE SHIT.”
3. See No. 2; repeat as necessary.
Based on a novel based on a true story, Black’s Game depicts the life of drug thugs in Reykjavik on the eve of the millennium. Our protagonist is Stebbi (Thor Kristjansson, Harpoon: Whale Watching Massacre), a slacker whose drunken antics one night find him smacked with aggravated-assault charges and the potential to face five years in prison. Luckily, he runs into an old childhood friend, Toti (Jóhannes Haukur Jóhannesson), now a frightening hulk of a man, who offers guaranteed legal help in return for a favor.
That favor is freeing several bricks of cocaine from an empty apartment — well, empty at first — and Stebbi does such a good job that Toti puts him on the payroll. Before he knows it, Stebbi goes from having nothing to everything — sex, drugs, more drugs — and as these stories typically go, viewers know he’ll get in over his head to a point of no return. Watching him and his fellow pushers careen toward an inevitable crash is a fascinating thrill, thanks mostly to writer/director Óskar Thór Axelsson.
It’s not that Axelsson offers anything new — and he knows it — but strives to deliver a story as cinematic as possible. Like an Icelandic take on Trainspotting, the first half is jacked equally on club music and club drugs, with camera tricks that would be show-offy if they weren't so damned cool.
When Black’s Game hits the hour mark, a race-against-the-clock sequence begins that is so out of Goodfellas, you may crane your neck to spot the helicopters. However, it’s followed closely by an act Martin Scorsese dared not touch, making the rest of the film so unsettling. It’s a flick that’s aflame, right down to the final sick frame. —Rod Lott
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