After the disappointment that was 2017’s Kill ‘Em All Jean-Claude van Damme latest movie has him team up with a familiar face: Dolph Lundgren. They have previously appeared together in four movies. Three of them belonging to the Universal Soldier series. Their latest movie together, Black Water, marks the first time they aren’t each others nemesis. This sounds like a fun idea: two aging action stars teaming up in what sounds to be a take on Under Siege. But the results are underwhelming.
Black Water starts with Van Damme awakening in a CIA black site on a submarine. He’s imprisoned and in the cell next door to him sits Lundgren. Lundgren’s here to bring him up to speed and to provide the movie with some exposition. It turns out that Van Damme is a CIA operative who is in possession of a dongle that contains all the names of their sleeper operatives. He’s trying to keep the dongle out of the hands of a corrupt CIA official who has convinced everybody that it is Van Damme who is the corrupt agent.
Van Damme manages to hide the dongle but is taken into custody. But not before the bad guys manage to kill his young female partner whom he also sleeps with by the way. A trope often seen in these DTV action movies with 80s and 90s action stars. Men in their sixties bedding women in their twenties.
During an interrogation scene Van Damme manages to escape and now has to stay out of the hands of the bad guys. A bit difficult since he’s in a confined location deep in the sea. Helping him is a female rookie CIA agent (Jasmine Waltz) who believes his story and of course Dolph Lundgren. He’s not on the poster for nothing.
All the ingredients are here to make a fun action movie that echoes movies like Die Hard and Under Siege as well as team-up movies like Showdown in Little Tokyo. Black Water never comes near the quality and fun of those movies. While this is a movie submarine, meaning that the corridors are much wider than they are in real life, most of the action scenes consist of gun fights. Van Damme is at his best when he jump kicks around freely.
Lundgren on the other hand is wasted in what is a glorified cameo. After the opening scene he disappears for most of the movie until Van Damme releases him from his cell at around 75 minutes into a 104 minute movie. And even then he’s only on screen for a couple of scenes and missing from the finale. So much potential thrown out of the window. I was hoping for these two non-American actors to bicker their way through the movie with their thick accents.
Once he’s on the loose most of the movie is just Van Damme going from location to location on the ship. Occasionally running into bad guys. With a running time of 104 minutes and a fairly straightforward plot Black Water feels overlong. It has some excessive fat that it could have easily been cut. It would have even made Lundgren’s part seem more substantial.
That’s not to say that all is bad though. It’s a mildly enjoyable action movie with a twist at the end I saw coming miles away. This is somewhat of a return to form for Van Damme. Especially when you compare it to the terrible Kill ‘Em All. That does not mean much much. It’s still just another run-of-the-mill entry in his rather mediocre DTV output. The guy is at his best when he experiments or takes supporting roles. Movies like JCVD or his short-lived TV-show. They should never have cancelled that after just one season.