The noir crime film “Black Coal, Thin Ice” arrives on home video September 29. The acclaimed film won the Golden Bear at the Berlin Film Festival, but while the film is beautifully shot, this downbeat procedural may prove challenging for mainstream moviegoers. Featuring inert drama and dull characters, this slow-paced drama is curiously unsatisfying, a “thriller” in the loosest sense of the term.
The film lets you know what you’re in for from the very starts, with the opening credits silently fading in and out. Beginning in 1999, the film follows a human arm as it travels along a coal production line. Later, during an incredible single-take scene, a moment of intense violence erupts, before the film jumps to 2004. So far, so good.
Unfortunately, once the film jumps ahead in time, “Black Coal, Thin Ice” slows to a crawl, with languid shots of our downbeat protagonist mixing with generic procedural scenes. The film is reminiscent of the far better “Memories of Murder,” but whereas that film featured humor and warmth, “Black Coal, Thin Ice” is dour and humorless. a grim downer which feels twice as long as its 100-minute runtime.
It’s too bad, because the film looks gorgeous. Blu-Ray is the perfect format for this eye-popping film, and it’s a shame the film’s story doesn’t rise to the cinematography’s level. “Black Coal, Thin Ice” looks terrific and is loaded with evocative images, but the film’s airless storytelling is so downbeat that when the end credits kick off with a bouncy pop ditty, viewers may have trouble suppressing their laughter.