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Pasha Patriki
Jean-Claude Van Damme, Dolph Lundgren
Writing Credits:
Richard Switzer, Tyler W. Konney

A deep cover operative awakens to find himself imprisoned in a CIA black site on a submarine.

Rated R.

Aspect Ratio: 2.40:1
English DTS-HD MA 5.1
Supplements Subtitles:

Runtime: 104 min.
Price: $21.99
Release Date: 8/21/2018

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Black Water [Blu-Ray] (2018)

Reviewed by Colin Jacobson (August 8, 2018)

Aging action heroes Jean-Claude Van Damme and Dolph Lundgren reunite for 2018’s Black Water. Scott Wheeler (Van Damme) works as a “deep-cover operative” until the CIA captures him because they believe he “changed sides”.

Wheeler winds up in a submarine-based “black site” where the agents press him for information. Wheeler ends up double-crossed by rogue elements, so he teams with inexperienced agent Cassie Taylor (Jasmine Waltz) and fellow inmate Marco (Lundgren) to survive.

As story ideas go, that’s not a terrible one, even if it seems reminiscent of 2013’s Escape Plan. Perhaps that’s logical, since Plan also provided a team-up for action icons.

Of course, with Arnold Schwarzenegge and Sylvester Stallone as the leads, Plan went with one-time “A-list” actors. Neither Lundgren nor Van Damme ever reached their heights, as even at their respective peaks, they made “B”-level at best.

Unlike Schwarzenegger and Stallone, though, Lundgren and Van Damme starred together prior to the 21st century. They first starred in 1992’s Universal Soldier, a flick probably best remembered as the one that launched the Roland Emmerich/Dean Devlin union that proved so fruitful in the 1990s.

Both also worked together in 21st century Soldier sequels. Van Damme came back for 1999’s Universal Soldier: The Return, but Lundgren didn’t join him until 2009’s Regeneration.

As seen in Water, Van Damme looks tired beyond his years. At 57, he’s no spring chicken, but he’s also only two years older than Tom Cruise, and the latter continues to show excellent stunt chops.

Van Damme seems sluggish, and this impacts his ability to play the action hero. No one expects the 57-year-old Van Damme to demonstrate the acrobatics he displayed 25 years ago, but he now seems barely able to walk, much less portray a credible combatant.

It doesn’t help that Van Damme never learned how to act. He seemed stiff and unnatural in his heyday, and that hasn’t changed. He remains unconvincing in the role.

To my semi-surprise, Lundgren fares a bit better, at least in terms of acting chops. Granted, the movie asks less of him, as Lundgren fills much less screen time than Van Damme, but he brings a decent sense of personality to the role.

Or maybe Lundgren just looks good because everyone else seems so awful. The remaining cast members come across as flat and amateurish too much of the time, and they can’t add anything to their parts.

Not that excellent acting would’ve helped, as Water suffers from too many flaws. It provides action that lacks sizzle or excitement and a generally clumsy sense of filmmaking that makes it a chore to watch.

The Disc Grades: Picture B-/ Audio B/ Bonus D-

Black Water appears in an aspect ratio of approximately 2.40:1 on this Blu-ray Disc. This was an up and down transfer, but it usually looked fine.

Sharpness was the least consistent aspect of the image. Though most of the flick looked accurate and concise, exceptions occurred. The movie could seem a bit soft at times, and not for obvious stylistic reasons.

Despite those instances, I felt the majority of the movie offered nice clarity. No issues with jaggies or moiré effects materialized, and edge haloes were absent. Source flaws failed to become a factor here.

In terms of palette, Water went with a stylized look. In an unsurprising move, the film emphasized orange and especially teal to a substantial degree. Those tones seemed acceptable given their limitations.

Blacks were reasonably dark and tight, while shadows showed decent to good delineation. Overall, the image looked acceptable, though the issues with sharpness led me to a “B-“ grade.

When I examined the DTS-HD MA 5.1 soundtrack of Water, I thought it was moderately active and involving. To be sure, the movie offered decent level of material from all five channels.

Given the story, we got a fair amount of gunfire, and we also got underwater sub-based material. These elements created a good sense of place and movement that brought us a solid soundscape, though not one that truly excelled

Audio quality was fine. Speech was reasonably crisp and natural, and effects showed good punch.

Music was also clear and full. The soundtrack didn’t dazzle but it connected with the material.

The disc opens with ads for The Yellow Birds, Dark Crimes, An Ordinary Man, and American Animals. No trailer for Water appears here.

No one expects much from Jean-Claude Van Damme and/or Dolph Lundgren these days, and Black Water lives down to those expectations. Despite a basic plot that shows promise, the film itself turns into a stagnant dud. The Blu-ray brings acceptably good picture and audio but it lacks supplements. I’ve seen worse action movies but this one remains awfully bland.

Viewer Film Ratings: 1 Stars Number of Votes: 1
0 3:
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