Nazi Dawn (2010)

Nazi Dawn is baffling. The plot is baffling, the script is baffling, the score is baffling and the direction is baffling. Even the film’s title is a baffling misnomer. Nazi Dawn is slow, dull, ridiculous and more than a little confusing. Without Lance Henriksen it would be appalling, but instead it’s just bad.

Originally known in the USA as Deadwater, then changed to Black Ops, then changed to Nazi Dawn for the UK DVD release, the film’s creators and distributors seem keen to avoid a paper trail. A paper trail of terrible reviews, presumably. Nazi Dawn is a poorly constructed film. It doesn’t excite, intrigue or thrill. It merely happens. And badly.

Colonel John Willets (Lance Henrikson) is on a secret black ops mission for the US military. He must track down a missing battleship, which has fallen silent in the Persian Gulf. Col. Willets’ mission isn’t just militaristic, however, as his estranged son is on board the battleship and could be in serious danger. The ship was carrying an Iraqi war criminal, the Ace of Spades, and the US government believe he may have escaped his interrogators and taken over the ship. But they couldn’t be further from the truth.

Arriving with a Special Forces team and two scientists (with their own hidden agenda), Col. Willets discovers most of the crew dead, brutally murdered with whatever was lying around – ropes, wrenches, cutlery – anything. There are only a few survivors, including Col. Willets’ son, and they quickly realize that the Ace of Spades could not be responsible for all the violence onboard. No one could. No one human, anyway.

Intrigued yet? You shouldn’t be. It’s not coherent, or interesting, and the “thing” on board is so stupidly revealed, with utterly inconsistent actions, it’s bafflingly irrelevant. You already know this has something to do with Nazis, as the film is called Nazi Dawn (in the UK anyway), and we slowly discover the ship is a re-commissioned WWII-era destroyer that once held an imprisoned Nazi scientist. I say “once”, but he might still be there…

The main flaw with Nazi Dawn is everything. The direction is dull and lacks pace and urgency, which is no surprise coming from Roel Reine, director of The Marker, The Lost Tribe and The Marine 2. The score is militaristic and might work for a war drama, but it’s not the score of a horror film and wipes any tension from the film entirely. The script is perfunctory for the majority of the film, with the occasional quality one-liner thrown in, which is instantly given to Lance Henriksen to waste in his gruff seriousness. That’s not to say Henriksen is terrible – far from it – he’s just not known for his great comic timing. The acting is reasonable, with decent turns from Gary Stretch and D.C Douglas, and one great performance by Jim Hanks as the weary military mortician. The script’s characters, however, do not give the actors much to work with, being hugely stereotypical and uninspiring. Henriksen is definitely watchable, but (at the ripe old age of sixty-eight) he’s showing signs of tiring, and doesn’t quite suit the role of a Special Forces field commander.

Essentially Nazi Dawn is vastly confusing. There are twists thrown in at random, information gleefully ignored until later, two scientists sporting laughable Ghostbusters-style backpacks and uttering lines like “even ghosts can’t ignore the laws of physics and nature” (which turns out to be massively untrue), and a general sense that no one in the film actually wanted to be there. Name a horror cliché and it’s splattered haphazardly on the screen – splitting up, evil Nazi scientists, randomly unnecessary nudity scene – it’s so poor it should be laughable, but so dull it’s just boring.

Without the presence of Lance Henriksen, Nazi Dawn should’ve been torpedoed the moment Reine and Wiley put pen to paper. Even the violence and scares are poorly constructed and dull. Yet it’s arrived, and it’s out there, so please do your best to ignore it.

In conclusion: Nazi Dawn is not good. It will entertain you if you’re doing the ironing or tidying your room, but this doesn’t deserve your full attention. Confusing, badly constructed and simply a bit pointless – this ship sunk before it left the harbour.

Rating: ★★★☆☆☆☆☆☆☆

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