The Direct to Video Connoisseur

I'm a huge fan of action, horror, sci-fi, and comedy, especially of the Direct to Video variety. In this blog I review some of my favorites and not so favorites, and encourage people to comment and add to the discussion. For announcements and updates, don't forget to Follow us on Twitter and Like our Facebook page. If you're the director, producer, distributor, etc. of a low-budget feature length film and you'd like to send me a copy to review, you can contact me at dtvconnoisseur[at] I'd love to check out what you got. And check out my book, Chad in Accounting, over on Amazon.

Sunday, November 3, 2019

Black Water (2018)

I first found out about this one when it was suggested to me on a streaming site while I was looking for something else.  My bigger question was how I didn't know about this before?  Dolph/Van Damme in a movie together is almost as big as De Niro and Pacino--almost.

Black Water has Van Damme as Wheeler, a CIA special agent working deep cover to find someone leaking top secret info for money.  Things go bad though, and he finds himself on a submarine that technically doesn't exist, and is used for detaining and interrogating high-risk targets--like Dolph, who's being held there for unknown reasons.  While Van Damme is being interrogated, he's able to escape his cuffs and escape onto the sub with a plucky young CIA recruit, Cass.  Now Cass and Dolph are the only people who can help Van Damme get off the sub and clear his name.

This wasn't horrible, but I think for a movie with these two, "wasn't horrible" isn't exactly what you're looking for.  The movie starts with Van Damme waking up in a cell and trying to figure out where he is, while he talks to Dolpg through their cell walls.  It then takes us about 20 minutes to get us back there as we replay the events to show us what happened before. Why not just start the movie at the beginning then?  There was some nice action in that, but part of that brings me to my other issue with the movie: the submarine set was a bit too claustrophobic.  It's no coincidence that the best action scene in the movie came in that "here's what happened before" act that took place outside.  The other thing was, someone on imdb tagged this as having a Die Hard paradigm, but it really wasn't, it was more like one group against another trying to get control of the sub.  Maybe, had this been an actual Die Hard on a sub model, it would have worked better, but I still think the limitations due to the space would have been hard to overcome.

Usually if a movie has Dolph in it, we start with him, but because this was more of Van Damme's vehicle, I think it's only right to go to him first.  I really liked him in this.  His scenes with Dolph were a lot of fun; and his action sequences, especially with his gun fu and knife fu were great.  He just celebrated his 59th birthday, but based on what we're seeing with guys like Stallone and Schwarzenegger, he could have another ten years of movies like this.  I get the sense though that he wouldn't want that, that by 2029 he'll be doing something different from this, and I'm okay with that, what he's already given us has been fantastic enough.

Dolph is this movie's Chekhov's Gun.  We see him in the opening scene, and we know eventually they're going to use him, it's just a matter of when.  For that reason, I wouldn't call this a bait-and-switch, but that doesn't mean I wouldn't have liked more Dolph in the film.  For me, Dolph isn't your Chekhov's Gun character, he's the co-star, and he and Van Damme should have been taking out guys, bantering back and forth, and chewing up scenery for 90 minutes.  Steve Buscemi is great Chekhov's Gun, or maybe someone like Mike Tyson. 

We had Jasmine Waltz as Cass, the plucky recruit teamed up with Van Damme after he wins her over.  I felt like she was a victim of what I've always seen as a poor device used in action movies: the annoying partner who hampers our hero before he/she redeems themselves and becomes likable.  Why do that?  Why not just make her character likable right from the start?  Instead of having her try to keep Van Damme at gun point, when we've already established that her character is way over her head and couldn't keep him at gun point, why not have her trust her gut and support him right from the start--which, going back to Chekhov's Gun, they established during the interrogation scene that she was already having doubts that Van Damme was a baddie, and then suddenly went away from that and didn't trust him.

We talked about Van Damme's age earlier in the post, but I think I may be getting softer in my old age too (if 40's old), because I really liked the fight scene between Van Damme and his son Kris. I don't think I could do a choreographed fight with my dad, but they definitely pulled it off.  We talk about Scott Adkins or Michael Jai White as guys who could carry the torch from some of these action greats like Dolph and Van Damme, but if they're going to be sticking around another ten years, there might not be a torch to pass before they're in their 50s and 60s too; but Kris Van Damme is only in his early 30s, and with one of the all-time greats in his dad there to possibly train him, I think he's someone that by 2029 could be on the cover of these movies and taking DTV action to that next level.

Overall, as I said, I didn't think this was horrible.  I think if you have 104 minutes to kill, you could do a lot worse than this.  It's available to stream if you have Amazon Prime, or to rent on streaming through Amazon or Redbox.  For a Dolph/Van Damme flick, I expected more, but, again, it wasn't horrible.

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1 comment:

  1. I quite liked it, but as you say, you do expect a lot with that double billing. Universal Soldier this aint, that's for sure.