A man named Wheeler (Jean Claude Van Damme) wakes up in a prison-like cell with a bad headache, struggling to remember how he got there. Soon he discovers that he is not the only one locked up. In the room next to him is a man named Marco (Dolph Lundgren) and it is he who explains about where Wheeler is. Marco also explains to Wheeler that he is actually locked up in a prison cell located on a giant submarine. Wheeler shares his back story with his new friend. It turns out Wheeler is a deep-cover operative who eventually became a wanted man and was hunted down.
It saddens me to say it, but the plot of this film is weak. Black Water is attempting to be more of a thriller than an action film. There’s a point early in the movie when Wheeler explains his undercover mission, and I found it all to be vague and forgettable. None of the scenes in the opening act ever create any substantial investment for the audience. There is also no significant tension or any reasons to care about any of the characters, good or bad. The film attempts to have some plot twists, but these are either predictable or again, unnecessary.
Based on the leading actors, if you’re expecting a non-stop action film, you’re in for a shock. Black Water is incredibly plot and dialogue-heavy, particularly within the film’s first act. During this act, we see a minor shooting sequence, but the majority is dialogue revolving around characters questioning Wheeler, talking about the CIA and secret data. We even see characters talking about Wheeler and how he is truly the best of the best blah blah blah. This act also allows us to gain insight into the relationship between Wheeler and a young woman.
Fun fact- this film marks the fifth collaboration of Jean-Claude Van Damme and Dolph Lundgren. But despite it being the fifth time sharing the screen, it’s all sad news for movie lovers. Fans of either action star will be disappointed by the action that does occur in this film. I was mainly surprised at how the actor Dolph Lundgren is used in this film. Action star Dolph Lundgren has a screen presence which is extremely short considering he’s second billing on the poster. I’ll confess that out of all the personalities and characters in the film, Dolph Lundgren was the best and is barely used. With the action there is, our action stars are shooting more guns rather than swinging fists. Again, given the leads, I had hoped for something more here, but most of the stunt work is basic. My advice would have been to keep the plot simple and let the older action stars have more fun in regards to both action and the dialogue.
Another element I found myself thinking about is how the film is set in a submarine, and yet there seem to be many people shooting machine guns and handguns- it all just doesn’t seem right to me. With the large amounts of gunfire used by good and bad guys, there’s a lot of what I call “The Storm Trooper” effect- characters shoot, but they continue to miss their target. Even when Wheeler is in a nice open area, bullets just seem to bounce around him.
Overall, Black Water delivers about what I expected as a B grade film, but I can’t help but still feel very disappointed given the lead actors. If you are seeking action, fans of Lundgren and Van Damme will be disappointed. Black Water is attempting to be more of a serious thriller, but the plot gets more uninteresting and forgettable as each scene passes by. Black Water also tries to bring in some twists, but the reveals are generally predictable and the side characters have no real presence on screen. Black Water is a missed opportunity given the heroes are Jean-Claude Van Damme & Dolph Lundgren. Abandon Ship
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Review Written by Peter Walkden