From Amazon’s page on Black Water: A deep-cover operative (Van Damme) imprisoned on a CIA submarine teams with a fellow prisoner (Lundgren) for an electrifying fight to escape in this action-powered thriller.
Jean-Claude Van Damme! Dolph Lundgren! Secret Agents! On a Submarine! Whoever wrote this blurb must be a shitty movie fan. No one but one of us could tap so deeply into the shitty movie fan’s root desires in so few words. And if they’re not fan — if they’re just churning out copy for a meager wage and nothing else — then might I suggest a raise? This scribbler has talent!
Black Water, the 2018 shitty action flick from director Pasha Patriki and screenwriter Chad Law, does indeed feature a prison aboard a submarine. It’s a silly premise. We all know, to our deep and everlasting shame, that the United States operates secret black sites where it holds prisoners outside of the legal system. These sites tend to be in countries willing to look the other way on torture, or even provide such services.
In this movie’s fictional universe, the CIA got ahold of a decommissioned submarine, hollowed out some of the compartments, and is using that as a mobile and undetectable black site. Once a person goes in, they never come out.
The next person to go in is our star. Van Damme plays Scott Wheeler, a CIA field operative. He’s been seized and sent to the underwater prison after some sort of illicitness involving a hard drive. Wheeler insists he’s innocent. While on the other side of the table in the interrogation room are Agents Ferris (Patrick Kilpatrick) and Rhodes (Al Sapienza). Ferris want’s Wheeler’s balls in a sling, while Rhodes was Wheeler’s mentor, and comes at the problem from a different angle. But, there is some trickery afoot.
One of these three men, and I’m not playing spoiler, is a bad guy, and some sudden bloody gunfire really gets the plot rolling. There are more gunfights, some hand-to-hand combat, some exposition, some fighting and maybe some more gunshots, and then with about 45 minutes left in the flick I remembered that Dolph Lundgren was in it. It’s not as if he hadn’t made an appearance, yet. Lundgren was in the first scene, which showed Wheeler wake up in his prison cell. Lundgren plays Marco, a prisoner in the cell next door to Wheeler. But he plays such a small part in this film, and the Van Damme plot was moving along so nicely, that I genuinely forgot he was in the movie.
Anyway, Wheeler releases Marco, and they team up with another CIA operative, Cassie Taylor (Jasmine Waltz) to escape the sub. Why all this is happening is due to that hard drive mentioned earlier, and its current whereabouts. It’s not on the sub, but everyone’s killing each other over it. That’s about it for plot. What makes this flick stand out is the production design.
This flick barely takes place off of the submarine. Much of the sub interiors were shot aboard the USS Alabama and USS Drum, a pair of museum ships moored in Mobile, Alabama. You can tell which ship was used for which shots by the size of the cabins. Alabama is a big, honking battleship while the Drum is a World War 2 submarine. If the cast can barely stand up and the walls are curved, then it was shot aboard the Drum. But the prison area of the secret CIA sub was built on a set, and it looks terrible. It no more resembles the interior of an oceangoing vessel than does the Lincoln Memorial. What little budget this flick had must have been spent elsewhere, because the prison set, which is used extensively, is among the cheapest I have ever seen. It rivals the spaceship hallway from Dark Star. That’s some prime shitty filmmaking
The sets are bad, the acting, even from the stars, is wretched, and the plot is pretty dumb. I mean, a submarine? There have to be less expensive, and more practical, ways to make a person disappear that the CIA could use. They should call Erik Prince. I’m sure he has ideas.
The only saving grace for this movie are its many bloody gunfights, and a decent pace. After all, it was captivating enough for me to forget about one of the feature players. It still stinks. Black Water dives (heh-heh) down the Watchability Index, bottoming out at #143, between Geostorm and Starship Troopers 3: Marauder. I watched it so you don’t have to. Try and avoid.