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The Gratuitous B-Movie Column: Black Water

December 29, 2018 | Posted by Bryan Kristopowitz
Black Water Jean-Claude Van Damme Image Credit: Saban Films

The Gratuitous B-Movie Column Issue #490: Black Water

Van Damme December: Week 4

Hello, everyone, and welcome once again to the internets movie review column that knows that has zero interest in seeing the inside of an actual submarine in real life, The Gratuitous B-Movie Column, and I am your host Bryan Kristopowitz. In this issue, issue number four hundred and ninety, Van Damme December concludes with the low budget action thriller Black Water, which first hit movie screens in May of 2018.

Black Water


Black Water, directed by first time director Pasha Patriki and with a screenplay by action specialist Chad Law, is a well-made, low budget action thriller featuring a nice twist ending that I didn’t see coming at all. Now, the actual twist is something we’ve all seen a million times before in action flicks and thrillers and whatnot, but the way the twist is handled and the way it plays out is a definite cut above the usual. The movie also has a great cast headed by two action stars who seem to be fully engaged in the goings on, especially star Van Damme. In fact, if Black Water is deemed a success, I wouldn’t be surprised if we see JCVD play his character again in a sequel.

Van Damme plays Scott Wheeler, a badass deep cover CIA operative who, after his latest assignment goes to shit and his hot badass partner Mel (Courtney B. Turk) ends up dead, finds himself on a submarine that functions as a sort of black site prison/interrogation space. Parts of the CIA apparently believe that Wheeler is a traitor, is responsible for the deaths of several CIA agents, and has in his possession a two-part computer drive thing that has the names of CIA agents on it. Under the command of gruff asshole CIA agent Ferris (the great Patrick Kilpatrick), the CIA plans on getting what it wants out of Wheeler by any means necessary. See, in a black site prison/interrogation space, the interrogators can do pretty much whatever they want to the person or persons they interrogate. And, ha, once the black site finds itself in international waters, literally anything can legally happen. Based on those facts alone, Wheeler should be screwed big time. However, Wheeler isn’t just some random badass deep cover CIA agent. Wheeler is one of the best ever, and, based on everything people say about him, Wheeler should not be underestimated. This interrogation will be brutal, sure, but it sure as heck won’t be easy. Not by a long shot.

So, as Wheeler awaits his interrogation, he finds out that, in the cell next to him, is a guy named Marco (Dolph Lundgren), a mysterious badass who spends most of his day exercising in his cell, meditating, or drawing and reading. Marco knows quite a bit about the sub, the people who operate the sub, and what’s likely to happen to Wheeler at some point (he’s going to get his ass kicked, basically). Now, the submarine actually functions as both a CIA black site and an active duty U.S. Navy operation, with CIA agents and contractors and mercenaries and whatnot operating in the lower sections of the sub while the Navy operates the rest. Is that a good thing or a bad thing?

Now, as the interrogation is about to ramp up, Agent Rhodes of the CIA (Al Sapienza) shows up to act on Wheeler’s behalf. Rhodes doesn’t believe that Wheeler is an enemy of the agency or the United States and wants to make sure that the interrogation goes by the book. In any other interrogation situation Rhodes would seem like a good guy. However, considering what’s really going on with the interrogation space, Rhodes is not who he seems at all. In fact, Rhodes is the real deal bad guy here.

And so, once Rhodes reveals himself to be the traitor scumbag that Wheeler is accused of being, Wheeler manages to break free of Rhodes and his assembled team of sub security, agency shooters, and mercenary types, and suddenly we have a game of cat and mouse deep under water. Rhodes and his team of killers will do whatever it takes to find Wheeler and take him out. And Wheeler, along with actual good guy CIA agents Taylor (Jasmine Waltz) and Ellis (Aaron O’Connell) and, eventually, Marco (that’s not a spoiler because you know that Lundgren is going to have to be a part of the movie’s big action at some point. Why cast him in the movie if that doesn’t happen?) will find a way to evade Rhodes and his crew, maybe kill some of them, and alert the proper authorities that absolutely nothing is what it seems.

I don’t want to give away any more of the plot as Black Water has some pretty nifty smaller twists in it before the big twist reveal towards the end. When I first heard about the movie I expected that it would be more of a straight up action flick, sort of an extended chase scene and shootout inside a submarine. There is quite a bit of action at the beginning of the movie, where we see Wheeler and his partner Mel trying to escape what turns out to be a lethal as fuck CIA commando team. When the story shifts to the submarine the action essentially takes a backseat to the various twists of the plot and the characters, on both sides, trying to figure out what to do next. The shootouts and fight scenes that we do get on the submarine are good for what they are, but they’re not as spectacular as the ones outside of the hotel that Wheeler and Mel bang in before being attacked. That action strategy, in the big scheme of things, makes sense since the submarine setting is an enclosed space and there isn’t as much room to move around and whatnot.

Most of the submarine set looks great. It’s chock full of metal and pipes and stuff like that and is claustrophobic as hell. The interrogation room is kind of freaky looking since it looks like any other interrogation room you’ve seen (the interrogation space made me wonder why the hell they built that to be roomy but the rest of the submarine is narrow everywhere). The only part of the submarine that isn’t impressive is the spot where the Navy operates the sub. It just looks like a room that has some computer banks and some monitors in it. It doesn’t look like a place where anyone is going to operate a submarine. You could monitor a submarine or several submarines from there, but operate one? The command room looks like the backroom of a warehouse somewhere.

The exterior of the submarine looks great. It looks like an actual submarine. Now, I have no idea if the production had access to a real deal submarine, but, hell, when the characters find themselves on top of it, it looks like a submarine. That’s what counts. Outside of the command room, the submarine set is awesome. Hopefully, as more low budget action flicks think about setting themselves in a submarine, the producers of those future flicks examine how Black Water handled its submarine sequences. Black Water, by and large, is how you should do a low budget action flick set on a submarine.

The movie’s only real drawback is its running time. Clocking in at 104 minutes, Black Water could use some trimming. I don’t know what should be trimmed, but, as an unofficial rule, action movies in general tend to work best when they’re around 90-95 minutes. You have to have a damn good reason to be longer than 95 minutes. I don’t know if Black Water really has a good enough reason. The movie’s running time doesn’t destroy the movie or anything, it’s still worth seeing even if it is too long, but it is something that bothered me a bit when it was over. Am I the only one who notices this kind of thing?

At least the guns sound right. And the score, by Spencer Creaghan, is exactly right. That doesn’t always happen in the action movie world, low or big budget (or “medium” budget, for that matter).

The main cast is phenomenal. Van Damme is superb as Scott Wheeler. It’s cool how some people are scared of him because he’s one of the best agents the CIA has, and some people are oblivious to that fact and end up getting their asses kicked. It’s also cool how Wheeler is so unassuming that, while you know it’s true that he’s the ultimate badass, there’s still a sliver of doubt in your mind that maybe he isn’t because he never lets on that he knows he’s the ultimate badass. For Wheeler, he’s just some guy doing his job. It seems as though Van Damme’s fights are a little more ground based and not as spectacular as they have been in the past, which I assume is due to the close quarters of the submarine. I have no idea if it will happen, but I can totally see Van Damme playing Wheeler again. I’d be down for a sequel/”further adventures of” kind of thing.


Dolph Lundgren does a great job as the mysterious Marco. You know he’s probably a good guy but, hey, you never know when it comes to having Dolph Lundgren in a Jean-Claude Van Damme movie. Lundgren is fully engaged here, too, having the time of his life being one of the weirdest black ops guys in movie history. I think you’ll dig Marco’s final scene.

Al Sapienza is an absolute piece of human garbage as Rhodes, the CIA agent that isn’t exactly on the up and up. When we first meet him he seems like a decent and reasonable guy, but then the shit goes down and he’s just another scumbag traitor. Sapienza gives Rhodes the kind of confidence that he shouldn’t have but somehow does and he makes it work. If there was ever a guy who needed to be beaten to death by two of the greatest action stars in B-movie cinema history, it’s Sapienza’s Rhodes.

The great Patrick Kilpatrick does his usual brilliant job as Agent Ferris, the guy you assume is the real deal asshole of the movie because he’s played by Patrick Kilpatrick (and he was the bad guy in the Van Damme flick Death Warrant, which, as you all know, started off Van Damme December a few weeks ago). Ferris isn’t, though, which is a great swerve. Kilpatrick does get in some nifty gruff jerkoff scenes, and if and when there is a sequel I hope Kilpatrick comes back as Agent Ferris’ twin brother who also happens to be a CIA agent (or something like that. It doesn’t really matter. Kilpatrick always does a great job no matter what).

Jasmine Waltz and Aaron O’Connell are a great rookie CIA agent team as agents Cass and Ellis. At first, they seem a little too green for the jobs they’re required to do, but they both manage to overcome the odds against them, especially Cass. Both Waltz and O’Connell also, from certain angles, look a little to “perfect” to be CIA agents. Shouldn’t these two be underwear models instead of intelligence officers or whatever the hell? I can’t be the only one who thought that while watching Black Water.

Courtney B. Turk is excellent as Mel. She isn’t in the movie all that long, but her Mel character turns out to be pivotal to the way the story plays out. She’s got the physical chops to keep up with Van Damme, and she’s gorgeous, too, which always helps with this kind of deep cover character. Turk also participates in one of the sneakiest nude scenes I’ve seen in a long time. There’s side boob going on here, but, really, how much side bob do we actually get?

Be on the lookout for Kris Van Damme, Jean-Claude’s son, who shows up as the character Kagan. I have no idea which character Kagan is, but Kris has been working in his father’s movies for several years now, and, for the life of me, I can’t remember one role of his. So check out Black Water just to see which one is Kagan and then let me know.

Black Water is a great low budget action thriller. It has just about everything a great low budget action thriller needs to be a great low budget action thriller. As I said, the big twist is something we’ve all seen a million times before, but it’s handled so well that it feels fresh. The movie also has two top tier action stars kicking ass and taking names in Jean-Claude Van Damme and Dolph Lundgren. I hope there are more Wheeler and Marco adventures in our future. The world needs them.

See Black Water. See it, see it, see it.

So what do we have here?

Dead bodies: Over 30. Gotta be.

Explosions: Several.

Nudity?: A little, maybe, depending on how much you think you see.

Doobage: A dripping sink, a prisoner drawing, a massive headache, a flashback, a hotel in Alabama, hotel sex, side boob (maybe), messed up hair, face washing, cell phone hooey, a Glock, a mysterious knock on the door, a very dead maid, machine gun attack, cleaning cart hooey, pushing a guy onto the top of a car, a badass bullet to the head, a major shootout, chaos, wicked machine gun attack, a shoulder wound, a very dead old man, a submarine, push-ups, group eating in order to kill time, Taser hooey, talk of someone having an infinite threshold for pain, attempted interrogation, attempted up close eye injection, another badass bullet to the head, knife torture, deliberate thumb altering, one-way mirror hooey, non-lethal force, gun stealing, bullet to the neck, a close quarters shootout, face scratching, a guy gets thrown down some stairs, exploding pipes, sirens, a sort of hand-to-hand brawl, flashbang hooey, close quarters machine gun attack, knife to the foot, sleeper hold, serious face punching, multiple atomic elbows to the top of the head, neck breaking, yet another badass bullet to the head, of screen hand cutting, a machine gun ruse, pleading, bullet to the back of the knee, a nice twist, a noticeable bump on the forehead, a weird kiss, multiple negotiations, another shootout, attempted strangulation, more face scratching, a Pentagon briefing, and a final badass bullet to the head.

Kim Richards?: None.

Gratuitous: Jean-Claude Van Damme, Jean-Claude Van Damme on a submarine for some unknown reason, Dolph Lundgren, Dolph Lundgren drawing, Mobile, Alabama, a very long bridge, a corkscrew, serious maid killing, Patrick Kilpatrick, a submarine, Dolph Lundgren doing push-ups, people discussing rectal feeding, a submarine tour, a woman changing her shirt multiple times for some reason, Patrick Kilpatrick looking at red file folder, Jean-Claude Van Damme getting out of a pair of handcuffs, Dolph Lundgren meditating, submarine talk, talk of docking in Havana, a “The package is secured” text message, Jean-Claude Van Damme with a giant bump on his forehead, Jean-Claude Van Damme wearing tinted sunglasses, and a final badass bullet to the head.

Best lines: “Morning, sunshine, although we don’t exactly get that down here,” “Black site? More like a burial ground, except there ain’t no ground own here,” “I should not be here,” “Are you going to shoot me?,” “Oh, no. You first,” “I’m going to go investigate this breakfast you speak so highly of,” “We’re blown,” “He’s clean. It’s not here,” “Like I always say, it ain’t a black site if you can find it,” “I want to speak to someone in charge,” “You want a piece of this, too, Marco?,” “Do you have any I.D.?,” “Someone is setting me up,” “I can’t tell you what I don’t know,” “Just do it. You’re wasting my time,” “Hey, Ed, clock’s ticking!,” “We have an agreement,” “You really want to die over this?,” “I’m not the enemy here,” “Sonofabitch,” “We need to talk business and we need to talk now,” “Sorry, kid, it’s just business,” “In the old days it was just red wire, blue wire,” “It’s time to go,” “Let’s just say I’ve got a terminal case of I know too much,” “Who the fuck is Marco?,” “What in God’s name is going on back there?,” “Say hi, asshole. Fuck you!,” “I was gonna cut you in on a deal, I swear, I was gonna cut you in on a deal,” “Greed is the reason we’re here!,” “The sex wasn’t bad,” and “Consider us even, friend.”

Rating: 9.0/10.0


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Things to Watch Out For This Week


Death House: Okay, so this much anticipated action horror movie featuring an all-star horror cast is finally, apparently, available on home video. The movie’s Facebook and Twitter pages claim that you can buy the movie at Walmart, but I haven’t seen it there yet. I do know that you can buy it online from Amazon and Barnes and Noble and, likely, a few other places. Reviews for this have been mixed, which is what I expected (people seem to be really pissed off about Sid Haig being in the movie for like a minute and yet he’s all over the movie’s advertising), but I still want to see it. Hopefully, that will happen soon enough and I can review it. I’ve wanted to see this since I first heard about it and saw a presentation about it from the movie’s director, Harrison Smith. I would really like to know what the heck happened to this movie’s theatrical release plans. Wasn’t it supposed to play on over 100 screens via the Regal Entertainment Group? What the heck happened to that deal? And has anyone out there seen this? Anyone at all?


River Runs Red: Taye Diggs, George Lopez, Luke Hemsworth, and John Cusack star in this low budget action thriller about a judge, a cop, and some random guy exacting vengeance on two cops that killed a teenager or something. Based on the trailer, it looks maybe a smidge above direct-to-video, which is cool (and it’s cool, too, if it’s actually less than a direct-to-video movie). Taye Diggs really hasn’t done the action hero thing in abundance so far in his career, which is a shame since he has a good look and has the kind of charisma one needs to be an action star. The surprise in this cast is Lopez, who isn’t known to venture outside of the comedy world. How the heck did he get involved in this and is he any good at it? I want to rent this to see.


The Super: Chicago P.D. actor Patrick John Flueger stars alongside Val Kilmer in this low budget horror flick about a weird beard apartment building in New York City. The building in question, apparently, is notorious for strange as hell goings on and, apparently, people go missing from it all of the time. Why? I assume the movie will get into all of that. The trailer is pretty creepy, and Kilmer seems to be embracing the scary guy role he seems to be playing here. Looks very rentable.


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B-Movie News


Triple Threat has a release date!: After finding out via the movie’s director, the great Jesse V. Johnson, that his mega badass action cast action flick Triple Threat needed to be released in China first before it could get a North American release, we have word via the fine folks over at The Action Flix website, who got the news from Scott Adkins and his Facebook page, that Triple Threat will be released this coming March. March 22nd, to be exact.

Now, what does that mean, March 22nd? Will Triple Threat get an actual, full theatrical release and play everywhere, or will it get shown in a few theatres in the major cities (New York, Los Angeles, Chicago, places like that) and then get a Video On Demand release a few days later? I’m going to assume that the smallish release/VoD is what we’ll get, but stranger things have happened. Triple Threat has a killer, top notch cast of big deal action stars, with Iko Uwais, Tony Jaa, Adkins, Michael Jai White headlining alongside Tiger Chen, Celina Jade, Jeeja Yanin, and Michael Bisping, so that fact alone should warrant a major theatrical release. Usually, the world isn’t cool enough to allow that but who knows?

We’ve been waiting for this movie now for over a year. The first teaser trailer was released at the San Diego Comic-Con back in 2017. It’s now almost 2019 and we’re finally going to get to see the movie in a few months. I can’t wait. Triple Threat is now, officially, one of the must see movies of 2019. Anyone else excited about this development?

I mean, how could you not be excited after seeing that?


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Next Issue: It’s Ninja New Year with Black Eagle starring Sho Kosugi and Jean-Claude Van Damme!



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Well, I think that’ll be about it for now. Don’t forget to sign up with disqus if you want to comment on this article and any other 411 article. You know you want to, so just go do it.

B-movies rule. Always remember that.

Happy New Year!

Black Water

Jean-Claude Van Damme– Wheeler
Dolph Lundgren– Marco
Al Sapienza– Rhodes
Courtney B. Turk– Mel
Jasmine Waltz– Cass
Aaron O’Connell– Ellis
Patrick Kilpatrick– Ferris
Aleksander Vayshelboym– Kingsley
Mark Sherman– Weddle
Kris Van Damme– Kagan
John Posey– Captain Darrow

Directed by Pasha Patriki
Screenplay by Chad Law, based on a story by Chad Law, Tyler W. Konney, and Richard Switzer

Distributed by Saban Films, Dish Network, and Lionsgate Home Entertainment

Rated R for violence and language
Runtime– 104 minutes

Buy it here