REVIEW: Black Water (2018) | ManlyMovie

REVIEW: Black Water (2018)

Run Time: 100 Mins
Rated: R
What to expect: A poor man’s Under Siege, lousy production values

Here is a fool writing this review, because I watched the trailer for this movie a long time ago and was quietly excited about it.  The slick artwork for a VOD movie also further stewed up some promise.  Those hopes faded when people started speaking about how awful the film is, but it wasn’t until I watched it myself that I realized just how bad it is.  It’s the fifth team up for Jean Claude Van Damme and Dolph Lundgren.  And it’s another waste of everyone’s time.

The film sort of have an interesting premise; the Deep State has what it considers to be highly valuable prisoners, so important that their containment on land simply isn’t secure enough.  Not only is escape possible, but do-gooders in the main government can always stop by and make sure you’re not torturing them.  So someone comes up with an idea of stripping out a submarine and turning it into a sea-borne prison; no-one can detect it and no-one for damn sure can escape from it if it’s underwater.  On this submarine, Lundgren and Van Damme are prisoners, two ex-agents (what else?), who eventually launch a dual Casey Ryback insurrection against the crew.  Note by the way, that Van Damme and Lundgren are always enemies in their movies, so this is kind of a novelty here.

This premise might sound good, but trust me, by the halfway part of this cheap movie I was writhing in boredom, even though Van Damme has a full role (yes, Van Damme is in the whole movie, Lundgren however, is not).  It’s the old ‘USB drive with the secret files on it’ angle, the tell-tale sign that the writers are likely post graduate or equivalent, useless greenhorns.  They get Van Damme in an interrogation room early in the movie, and as soon as the interrogator asks “where is the drive?!”, you know that it’s all downhill from there.  Seriously, even Call of Duty games know better than to avoid this most tired of tropes.

Worse though than even the scripting, the production values.

This VODmit has the single worst submarine interior in the history of film.  It was clearly filmed inside a warehouse, with prefab walls that are ten feet high.  Some of the walls even look like stiffened cardboard with Korean televisions (the sub’s computer systems, see…) nailed to them.  At the beginning they boast about the depths the sub can dive to, yet here is a boat with no bulkheads!  None!  Here is a basic rule of a submarine – it must be able to withstand extreme pressure and this requires reinforcement right throughout the hull.  This one has nothing.  Worse, it even has glass walls. What do you think is going to happen in a submarine that dives, with no bulkheads and glass walls?  Let me tell you, the glass wall will explode right in front of your face, even with a bulkhead, and incapacitate members of your crew.

Beyond that, I really don’t know what else to say.  I commend Van Damme for showing up for the full duration and giving a rudimentary performance, I suppose.


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    May 25, 2018 at 11:36 am

    Night Rider,
    It sounds like 4 out of 10 is generous for this film, it sounds terrible.
    Shame really as unlike Seagal/Willis who are clearly there for the money only I still think that JCVD and Lundgren still give a shit.

    They need better scripts/productions values, perhaps something on Netflix?

    I mentioned the problems with dvd piracy and why Netflix could potentially solve these.

    • Avatar

      The Night Rider

      May 25, 2018 at 12:05 pm

      Re: Netflix vs. Packaged sales… it seems to me there is still some profitability in pushing these things out onto (admittedly dwindling) shelf space. Here’s an example:

      So the ‘hook’ is Mike Tyson vs. Steven Seagal.

      Of course, neither man is really in the movie and they share a single short fight. Worse, the fight is filmed entirely with Tyson fighting Seagal’s double, the two men never met.

      Such a film is naturally going to be pirated heavily. But apparently it’s still cost effective to produce in hard format. The costly part appears to be Seagal, but the way of returning your money is;
      1) Keep his screen time to a minimum,
      2) Get a washed up name like Tyson who will be cheaper
      3) Print it on DVD only – this artwork is for a DVD only
      4) Sell the DVDs to food stores. No, really, this is where you see these DVDs now, and have them positioned near the pay area or doors. In the same way you tactically place Mars bars near the till, to catch the eye of people who are waiting in line. That last ‘oh what the hell’ thing that gets thrown in the basket, cheap and guilty.

      Middle aged men who know these two faces, but are streaming illiterate, will likely buy it. By the time they’ve realized they’ve been conned it’s too late.

      The whole business model appears to be based around the DVD artwork, the casting, the billing. It doesn’t work so well with Netflix’s thumbnails, you just press stop and Netflix will grow tired of that and put their server space first. With the DVD, it’s too late after you’ve paid.

      • Avatar


        May 25, 2018 at 3:16 pm

        Night Rider,
        I can certainly see what you are saying and obviously there must be enough profit in these films released on dvd to be worthy of them doing.

        However they still must lose a fair bit of money due to online piracy which is a major thing these days.
        I also think that online piracy is why these films don’t get a better budget.

        I think if these films were made with a better budget, more care and with decent scripts that there is no reason they couldn’t do well on sites like Netflix.

        They would give a quality alternative to all the PG-13 action films.

        Instead of being just a crap cash-in of famous stars which frankly are a waste of the customer’s time.

        I used to buy a decent amount of direct to dvd action films as I wanted to give them a chance but I have seen too many bad ones and now don’t buy them at all due to this lack of quality.

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    May 25, 2018 at 11:38 am

    It was a bad movie. Did not finish it. And you make a good point there.. the submarine has a bunch of corners and wide open floorplans. Even a big sub stripped out is still going to have one room successive to the next with low ceilings

    Bad stuff. Don’t like Kris Van Damme appearing in so many VD movies like this either, starting to annoy me

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    May 25, 2018 at 1:46 pm

    Dammit. I was really looking forward to this. 🙁

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    Mucho Macho

    May 25, 2018 at 2:50 pm

    Haven’t watched this one yet. Guess we better off watching their great previous collaborations.

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    Mucho Macho

    May 25, 2018 at 4:52 pm

    Flashback vid of the day

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    John D Ashton

    May 25, 2018 at 4:54 pm

    Watched this. Sadly disappointing overall, but I guess it’s slightly better than some of Van Damme’s recent films like the laughably bad no-budget Kill Em All. He still looks bored and fed up, though. Dolph is in for like 3/4 mins and does pretty much nothing. At times I forgot he was even in it until he’d pop up for a few seconds again! Average at best, I’d give it 5 / 10.

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    Stig Johansen

    May 26, 2018 at 2:59 am

    As expected, really. I might watch it anyway. I have a weakness for rotten movies.

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    Barney Ross

    May 28, 2018 at 6:59 pm

    Not as bad as people say, enjoyed some gunfights in this.