Jude Law makes for an effective rogue submarine captain in "Black Sea," a fittingly immersive thriller, tautly directed by Kevin MacDonald.
Abruptly laid off by the salvage company where he has toiled for more than a decade, ex-Navy man Law enlists a ragtag crew of Brits and Russians (and a whiny lone American) to hunt for a sunken World War II-era German U-boat lying at the bottom of the Black Sea and rumored to be loaded down with gold bars.
Given the palpable scent of greed permeating those close quarters, it isn't long before their rusted-out Soviet-era sub becomes a floating pressure cooker, bringing deep-seated East-West distrust and paranoia to a boiling point.
But while Dennis Kelly's debut script follows a fairly predictable plot path that steers clear of character complexity, MacDonald, also responsible for "Touching the Void" and "The Last King of Scotland," maintains a firm, gritty grip on the visual action.
He's got an able first mate in Law, an actor at his best when he's unafraid to expose a more shadowy side. Equipped with an Aberdeen accent and a closely cropped haircut, Law's conflicted working-class antihero emerges as his most satisfyingly substantial lead performance in years.
MPAA rating: R for language, graphic images and violence.
Running time: 1 hour, 55 minutes.
Playing: AMC Century City 15, L.A., ArcLight Hollywood, ArcLight Sherman Oaks.