WHEN THEY WORK, submarine movies have a lot going for them: There's inherent drama in a bunch of shouty men stuck in a small metal tube surrounded by an environment that's actively trying to kill them. It's the perfect hotbox for conflicts of loyalty to play out, with no space for easy outs or smoke breaks. When submarine movies don't work, you're still stuck in a small metal tube with a bunch of shouty men for two hours, but you don't get any of that other stuff. Black Sea, the latest from Kevin Macdonald (The Last King of Scotland) has the look and feel of a great submarine movie, but a bathtub fart of a script.
Jude Law plays Robinson, an unemployed submarine captain confronted with the reality that there aren't a huge number of private-sector submarines that need captaining circa 2015. So he hatches a plan to beat his former employer to a sunken cache of delicious Nazi gold! The crew is split between Robinson's grumpy Anglo submariner chums (including Killing Them Softly alums Scoot McNairy and Ben Mendelsohn) and a handful of Slavic roughnecks (including Grigoriy Dobrygin and his magnificent beard).
The problem with Black Sea is that it's never sure if it wants to be an undersea tontine (which it mostly isn't) or Space Cowboys in a submarine (which it mostly is). Talented character actors reminisce about the glory days of authentic submarining—and then someone stabs them to death because the script needs them to. If you really want to spend time in a small metal tube, rent Crimson Tide.