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Svartur á leik
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Reviews & Ratings for
Black's Game More at IMDbPro »Svartur á leik (original title)

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23 out of 26 people found the following review useful:

A crime-thriller with an Icelandic flavour

Author: Red-Barracuda from Edinburgh, Scotland, UK
22 June 2012

After spending a night in the cells for a violent encounter, a young guy called Stebbi (Thor Kristjansson) bumps into an old school friend Tóti (Jóhannes Haukur Jóhannesson). The latter is now a gangster and he invites Stebbi into his world. Things become more complicated, however, when they join forces with a psychotic gangster called Bruno (Damon Younger). They take over the territory of the old-guard and set up a complex drug trafficking system but things begin to spiral out of control.

Pusher and Drive director Nicolas Winding Refn is the executive producer here. Black's Game is a film that does show his influence. It's a stylish crime-thriller with a prominent electronica soundtrack. It's based on a best-selling novel and it includes re-enactments of some real events. Set in the last days of the 20th century, its historical setting is intended to reflect the growth of the Icelandic crime underworld at the turn of the millennium. In many ways it's a fairly routine crime film, what really makes it distinctive is its Icelandic flavour. The dramatic landscape and the cultural details set this gangster flick apart from others. Otherwise it uses lots of stylistic touches now familiar to the genre like split-screen, slow motion and jump-cuts, although these are always quite welcome and they are well done here. As you might also expect for the genre, it is violent and disturbing at times too. But it also has space for a little sensuality as well, with the gorgeous María Birta, who plays coke-head Dagný, a very welcome presence indeed.

Black's Game may not exactly break the mould but it's a very good crime-thriller nevertheless. If you enjoy the new wave of north European crime films, such as the recent Headhunters, then this one should offer you something too. It wraps the genre up in the unique ambiance that northern European films do.

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19 out of 26 people found the following review useful:

Perfectly casted and acted crime thriller about a young criminal getting from bad to ugly

Author: JvH48 from Amersfoort, The Netherlands
28 October 2012

I saw this film as part of the Rotterdam Film Festival 2012. Main features are the high quality acting and script. The story has an unmistakable drive, keeping your attention for the whole duration. What we see unroll is a typical growth path for a young criminal. He starts with something relatively innocent, moves on to something less benign, and just has to continue from then on while becoming more and more unable to leave the "circle".

As a bonus we get a nice hint from the mentor-in-crime of our main character. When something unexpected happens, do the first thing that comes to mind, however strange it may be, and do it without any hesitation. He indeed acts on that rule a few times with success, especially in the final scene. How that last scene ends exactly, is deliberately left open by the film makers. I don't consider that to be a real problem, this being the only logical wrap-up for the story.

The final Q&A revealed that the footage was shot last May, but that the editing only finished the Monday before the festival screening. Having a fixed deadline in the form of this festival, was definitely needed to arrive at the finished product we saw.

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6 out of 6 people found the following review useful:

Sophisticated thriller -- spectacular Icelandic nature included

Author: Bene Cumb from Estonia/Tallinn
15 August 2013

In spite of its smallness and remoteness, Iceland has lively and notable film industry, with several remakes made in Hollywood and world-famous actors included. This century has seen the development of thrillers, often based on real events - in the line of other Nordic countries. Svartur á leik is a fine example of them: realistic plot and characters, twists in the scenario, witty ending... Well, unlike in Hollywood films, there are no constant chases, shootings and explosions, characters are not dealing with thoughtful sayings and not escaping in the very final moment... Nevertheless, there is a kind of Nordic style, splendidly complemented by nature scenes and club milieu. The actors and scene feed may seem a bit torpid, but so the Nordic people are...

Recommended to all those fond of Nordic crime films, and not thinking of Iceland as an idyllic and static country - international crime and addictions have reached this distant and thinly populated island as well...

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4 out of 4 people found the following review useful:

"Pain is satisfaction."

Author: morrison-dylan-fan from United Kingdom
13 July 2015

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

Taking a look at a fellow IMDbers reviews,I was thrilled to stumble upon a Nordic Noir film that I have never heard of before,with one of the executive producers being auteur film maker Nicolas Winding Refn.With having been in the mood to watch a new movie from the Nordic Noir genre,I felt that it was the perfect time to join in the game.

The plot-

Iceland 1999:

Arrested for assault, Stebbi is told by the cops that he could face 5 years in jail.Leaving the police station,Stebbi runs into Tóti,a childhood friend who he has not seen for years,and has heard is a major player in the Nordic underworld.Catching up with his old pal,Stebbi tells Tóti about the possible jail term hanging over his head.

Knowing a good lawyer who will get all the charges dropped, Tóti offers the lawyers number,in exchange for Stebbi doing a favour. Terrified of spending the next 5 years behind bars,Stebbi accepts the deal.Getting dropped off outside a major drug dealers flat,Stebbi is told that he must go and find some hidden "chocolate bars." Looking round,Stebbi uncovers a huge amount of hash.As he gathers up the hash,the drug dealer arrives and catches Stebbi in the middle of his thieving. Withstanding the dealers punches,Stebbi starts to hit back,and begins to enjoy the adrenalin rush.Entering the flat, Tóti is amazed to discover that Stebbi has beaten the dealer to a bloody pulp.As they gather the drugs,Stebbi & Tóti set their sights on changing the Nordic underworld map.

View on the film:

Filmed after all the major banks in the country had gone bust,writer/director Óskar Thór Axelsson & cinematographer Bergsteinn Björgúlfsson open ever wound of Iceland to splatter a brittle Nordic Noir atmosphere across the screen,by making every building in the title look covered in charcoal,and the deep snow opening up the cold hearted brutality of the underworld characters.Digging into the minds of Stebbi & Tóti, Axelsson superbly dazzles ultra-stylised, over-lapping images across the screen,which pull the viewer into Stebbi and Tóti peak moments of heightened hedonism.

Shooting Stefán Máni's true crime book on to the screen,the screenplay by Axelsson leaves any hint of a "journey/learning the error of their ways" at the blood-soaked door,thanks to Axelsson making the Nordic underworld run on Film Noir loners whose sole reasons for living are cold,hard drugs,cash & blood.Running at a trim 104 minutes, Axelsson slowly sinks Stebbi deeper and deeper into Tóti's merciless black tar,as Steebi's "favour" is revealed to be small fry,as he joins Toti in smashing up the old board of a ruthless game.

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3 out of 3 people found the following review useful:

Islandic Goodfellas

Author: movies-by-db from Amsterdam, Netherlands
21 February 2015

That's what this great movie reminded me of: An Islandic Goodfellas. A morality tale with a comparable "inner circle" of criminal drug-buddies that go through the rise and fall of their own empire.

Stylish as hell, with again many moments that reminded me of Goodfellas and in a way the films of Guy Ritchie, but still with it's own originality and raw power. This combined with great acting all round, especially from the lead "Stebbi Psycho" who kind of keeps a somewhat naive innocence about him, compared to his mostly pretty psychotic buddies, makes this a highly entertaining and engaging watch.

Indeed the beautiful Islandic backdrops that pass by frequently deserve to be mentioned as well. Makes a nice contrast to the greyish slightly dreary Reykjavik suburbs that the story takes place in.


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5 out of 8 people found the following review useful:

Óskar Thór Axelsson is most certainly someone to watch.

Author: Tommy Nicholls from United Kingdom
10 February 2013

Black's Game is a film produced by the director of Drive, Nicolas Winding Refn. I most likely don't need to tell you this, as most of you will have probably come to this after devouring his cinematography, looking for more of the same stylish cinema. What I do need to tell you is that this, isn't really like his works, well at least not his more modern attempts. It does have aspects of Refn, most notably with the Soundtrack and the style, but this is not Refn. Óskar Thór Axelsson establishes himself here as someone to watch.

It starts slowly, and as the events unfurl and become chaotic, so does the pace of the film really hyping up towards the finale. Every character is well played, and despite the language barrier, I could actually feel the characters. Everything about this film, was stylish and well played out, really mimicking its subject and the lifestyle without seeming forced.

At a relatively short time of an hour and forty minutes, this doesn't outstay its welcome, unlike a lot of films released today. And is well worth a watch, especially if you like crime drama's. Overall, a stylish look at the start of the Millennium, and a fascinating character driven crime drama.

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Drug gang becomes #1 in Iceland

Author: msroz from United States
26 May 2016

"Black's Game" (2012) is a drug gang story, a type of gangster story. I don't regard it as a thriller; the direction and editing at least didn't emphasize thriller elements that much, apart from the danger posed by the gang leader Bruno (Damon Younger). The story has very familiar elements, involving the rise of a drug gang, its fall, drug-induced partying, sex and the fog and error that drugs induce. The lead actors attempt to rise above the material, script and characterizations they were handed and they nearly succeed. But the script simply doesn't produce enough tension, twists or interesting developments. It leaves loose ends. For example, Jóhannes Haukur Jóhannesson has a major role at the outset, but his presence gradually diminishes. His last appearance in the film is handled in a cursory way. The main character is played by Thor Kristjansson, who looks confused most of the time. A pretty hanger-on played by María Birta wanders in and out of the story without much resolution. The ending leaves us guessing a bit.

The first half is tighter and more interesting than the second half. The look of the film is attractively neo-noir. The film doesn't go out of its way to use Icelandic locations all that well.

I found the film likable enough, with the novelty of it all more than enough to carry me along. I simply rate it as pretty much average, which to me means not bad. I don't think this film is in the same league as "Pusher" or "Drive", which some reviews mention. I think that "Jar City", another movie from Iceland And "Reykjavik to Rotterdam" are stronger films than "Svartur a leik".

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1 out of 3 people found the following review useful:

a good crime thriller

Author: dragokin
18 February 2013

Black's Game is worth watching because there are a couple of twists without which it would be just another crime thriller.

Apart from a few landmarks you won't see much of Iceland in the movie. This makes the setting more universal. And since there's a high probability you'll watch it dubbed in another language it might appear to be happening in any Scandinavian country.

The classic story of a main protagonist meeting an old friend who leads him to life of crime is more plausible if you remember that they're both in a small community on a remote island with limited competition. Therefore the ascent to the top is swift but it would be a surprise if the authorities won't react accordingly fast...

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5 out of 11 people found the following review useful:

Dark, Gritty and Average

Author: billcr12 from United States
6 April 2013

The drug dealing underworld is the focus here, set in Iceland, with a group of very unseemly individuals, fueled by cocaine and large quantities of alcohol and loud music in one too many night club scenes. We get bad cops and criminals and mediocre acting with an apparently bad English dub in the version I watched. A guy nicknamed Psycho is lured into the drug trade by the big money to be made and he hooks up with a childhood friend in many law breaking activities, including a funny bank robbery. Along the way there is a homosexual rape, and some bloody violence. The pace is rapid, but by the time it finally ended, I really did not care what happened to anyone involved, because no one portrayed had any redeeming qualities. A very average entry into the crime genre.

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1 out of 19 people found the following review useful:

Great crime thriller!

Author: dadatuuexx from United States
13 February 2013

Well,i,m not hip to this filmmaker,but i am hip to a good movie.I watch crime films,and action,and i know what i like.This film is way worth a watch.The copy i saw was dubbed to English,but its from Iceland ,or Norway(not too sure),but it does not matter,i watch movies ,from anywhere,in many languages,so i,m glad i could understand it.The visuals were great,and i liked the pace.The story was cool,and was based on true events i heard.The actors did a fine job,and the movie follows the main character thru a good story of choices,and crazy turn of events that get him deeper,and deeper in the crime syndicate he gets introduced to.A childhood friend helps him out of a jam,and thats where it all starts.I was pulled into the story right from the start.If your into crime,and action films,and don't care if it does not have a lot of trendy American actors,and just want to see a good movie,watch this one.i did,and was glad i did.

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