Movie Review: Submarine Thriller "Black Water" Manages To Dive Beneath The Dignity of Dolph Lundgren




Starring Jean-Claude Van Damme, Dolph Lundgren, Patrick Kilpatrick, Jasmine Waltz
Al Sapienza, Aleksander Vayshelboym, Ellis Ryan and Courtney B. Turk 
Written by Chad Law
Directed by Pasha Patriki

Reviewed by Patrick Gibbs




35 years ago, the action genre was changed forever by the instant classic Die Hard, which established Bruce Willis as an action superstar and John McTiernan as a top director to watch for precisely one more movie (The Hunt For Red October) followed by an endless string of  "Oh for hell's sake, why?" poorly executed bad choices (with Die Hard With A Vengeance being the lone standout, reaching a bold level of "parts of that kind of worked" that the rest of his movies strove for but never quite managed to achieve.). Sadly, McTeirnan said "Yippe Ki Yay" to his career when a false statement to an FBI investigator in February 2006 about his hiring the private investigator to illegally wiretap  Rollerball producer Charles Roven lead to him spending 12 months in a Federal prison, which stands as the second biggest embarrassment of his entire life (the first being actually directing Rollerball.)

OK, that first paragraph totally got away from me, but I defy you to try watching, or even thinking about Black Water without your mind wandering. The point I was going for is that it took far less less than 35 years for Die Hard to go from movie to franchise to oft imitated movie to full blown genre of it's own. Next week it comes full circle as Dwayne Johnson stars in Skyscraper, which appears to essentially be Die Hard in a Building. But for now, we're focusing on Black Water, the latest from Jean-Claude Van Damme (yes, he is still making movies), the man who gave us Die Hard at a Hockey Game, but more than 20 years later has matured so much as actor that he's ready for Die Hard on a Submarine.

Scott Wheeler (Jean-Claude Van Damme) stops to say a prayer of thanks for the fact that he kept his shoes on.
(Image Courtesy Lionsgate and Saban Films)

The "story" centers around Scott Wheeler (obviously the perfect name for Van Damme), a  deep cover operative  CIA agent looking for a leak in the CIA, along with his partner Melissa (Courtney B. Turk.). The duo is using a USB drive that needs two components to activate. Melissa carries the drive while Wheeler carries the activation key. He woke up the next day being shot and while trying to escape, Melissa is killed. Wheeler manages to escape. He goes to meet his handler, but finds his handler killed. Wheeler is captured and drugged by Agent Patrick Ferris (the bizarrely obsessed with his own name Patrick Kilpatrick, bets known as the guy who got hit with the sick stick in Minority Report.). Ferris  believes Wheeler is responsible for the deaths of his fellow CIA agents, and Agent Rhodes (Al Sapienza, whom you may remember as "Tomato Man" from the 1990 episode of Who's The Boss? entitled Inherit The Wine, but probably not), who believes Wheeler is innocent.  They take Wheeler to a Blacksite on board a retrofitted nuclear submarine (because you can't get into GITMO this time of year without booking ahead.).

Jasmine Waltz as the token female.
(Image Courtesy Lionsgate and Saban Films)


Needless to say, things go wrong and soon Wheeler is fighting for his own survival and he chased throughout a cramped submarine (not too cramped of course, because this is a movie) and the Captain and his crew on the upper deck amazingly cannot hear the men below decks recklessly firing machine guns at anything that might vaguely resemble Van Damme, despite the fact that it was clearly established in Red October that a chorus of men singing carries through the ocean from one submarine to another. Oh, and speaking of things that resemble Van Damme, Dolph Lundgren is also in the film, playing an imprisoned German agent. When Wheeler asks the prisoner in his adjoining  cell "What's your name?" he shouts "Marco" through the small hole they used to communicate, and the audience shouts "Polo!" back at him.

Quite honestly, once the action gets underway, the film isn't entirely unwatchable most of the way from a turn of your brain standpoint, but does anyone remember the days when Van Damme and Lundgren stood out as the non actors in their films? This one relies rather heavily on their seasoned level of charm and natural presence on camera to overcome the shortcomings of everything else,and really sores highest whenever Lundgren is on screen exuding a sense of introspective and cool intellect, and laid back sense of charisma, and if that doesn't frighten the blithering blood bejeezus out of you, I suspect that nothing much could.

(Image Courtesy Lionsgate and Saban Films)

Relative unknowns Jasmine Waltz and Courtney B. Turk are on hand to provide not one but two love interests for Van Damme, and if you combine their ages, they are probably old enough to be his daughter. But by far the most entertaining aspect of this little gem is captioning on the iTunes version (supposedly it also opened to a "limited" theatrical release, which begs the question of where there exists a multiplex with enough screens that they have one to spare on this movie in the first weekend of July. Anyway, when Wheeler is asked where he is keeping the drive, his answer of "let me check my pocket" is rendered as "let me check my bucket", which makes loads of sense, and most amusingly, when the guard discuss the amount of torture that Marco withstood before cracking, such as water boarding, etc, the phrase "a rectal feeding" becomes . . . I am not making this up . . . "Erectile Feeding." Viewers at home, if any of you can even come up with the vaguest theory as to how this would even work, I beg you not to ever share it with me or anyone else.

Just do yourself a favor and wait for Skyscraper, or better yet, just watch the first Die Hard again. Or even the second one. Any of them but the fifth, really.  

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