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Review: Jean-Claude Van Damme/Dolph Lundgren action-thriller ‘Black Water’ stuck in retrograde

Jean-Claude Van Damme as Wheeler and Dolph Lundgren as Marco in the film “Black Water.” Credit: Lion
Jean-Claude Van Damme, foreground, and Dolph Lundgren in the movie “Black Water.”
(Lionsgate / Saban Films)

Eighties action stars Jean-Claude Van Damme and Dolph Lundgren team up for the action-thriller “Black Water” that’s retro in all the wrong ways.

Written by Chad Law (from a story by Law, Tyler W. Konney and Richard Switzer) and directed by Pasha Patriki, “Black Water’s” hook is that it’s set entirely aboard a submarine functioning as an underwater prison/CIA black ops site. Operative Scott Wheeler (Van Damme) wakes up in his ocean-bound cell after a deal to sell a hard drive of sensitive information goes awry, and his partner/lover Melissa (Courtney B. Turk) is killed.

From there, it’s just a matter of Van Damme fighting his way out of this sub jail, which could have been an interesting challenge if the set of the submarine looked anything like a sub and not a generic warehouse. My, what tall ceilings this submarine has!

But it’s the treatment of the female characters that demonstrates just how laughably out of touch “Black Water” is. In addition to oversexed, untrustworthy Melissa, there’s also Cassie (Jasmine Waltz), the aspiring field agent aboard the sub sporting a full face of makeup and a clingy top that she twice has to remove in front of men.

Everything about this movie seems ripped from the ’80s, including the woefully sexist gender politics. But that’s only one of many reasons that this B-movie dreck should have stayed underwater.

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‘Black Water’

Rated: R, for violence and language

Running time: 1 hour 45 minutes

Playing: Starts Friday, AMC Universal CityWalk; also on VOD

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