Black Water Blu-ray Review
Under Siege 3
Black Water Review
Marking their fifth collaboration, Universal Soldiers Van Damme and Dolph Lundgren team-up to cause trouble on a nuclear submarine.With an on-screen career together dating back a quarter of a Century, it's surprising that these two 80s/90s action icons spent the best part of 20 years of that time avoiding co-starring vehicles, only to churn out a slew of collaborations ever since 2010's remarkably effective late-stage sequel, Universal Soldier: Regeneration (with it's Apocalypse-Now-on-a-budget follow-up, Universal Soldier: Day of Reckoning one of the most ambitious straight-to-DVD features in the last decade, and another collaboration for the duo).
Perhaps it's competing personalities, or star status, but it's a shame really, as neither command the kind of projects that they used to (notwithstanding Lundgren's upcoming return to the Rocky franchise in Creed II, and supporting part in the Justice League as Aquaman's father, the King), leaving this low budget Under Siege-lite a disappointing hunting ground for the two.
It's sad to see Van Damme drop back another few steps in his post-JCVD career comeback which never really gained momentum.
The story has Van Damme's deep cover operative captured and put on a special submarine for black ops interrogations where some treacherous US agents want to get him to reveal some secrets, requiring him to escape and wreak havoc on the decks.
It's flimsy, let down significantly by the submarine sets, and perhaps the fact that Van Damme looks extremely tired (which could easily be mistaken for a lack of enthusiasm and is made all the more obvious by Lundgren having a lot more fun on screen). The scenes with Lundgren certainly liven up old Van Damme's performance, which is also a disappointment because they represent less than a third of the runtime.
The directorial debut of Pasha Patriki, there's nothing really here which is going to endure the former DOP to his contemporaries or give him much of a career in the business beyond low rent STV actioners that nobody else wants to handle.
There is some attempt at style, but there's little flair for action - which is the only thing anybody will come to this for - and the film just peters out to a very anticlimactic final act that makes you wonder why you bothered. One decent action sequence could have given this a reason for its existence, but, alas, it never comes.
It's sad to see Van Damme (whose initially promising but ultimately lacklustre Amazon Original TV action-comedy series Jean-Claude Van Johnson got unsurprisingly but still disappointingly cancelled) drop back another few steps in his post-JCVD career comeback which never really gained momentum.
Black Water Blu-ray PictureBlack Water's Region B-locked UK Blu-ray release affords the low budget straight-to-video piece an appropriately glossy digital look, rendering a solid 1080p/AVC-encoded High Definition video presentation that has few technical faults beyond perhaps a few focus issues.
Detail remains frequently excellent, lapping up the craggy visages of the Van Damme and Lundgren, the grimy setting, clothing and uniforms as well as weaponry. It's a cheap pretence of a submarine set, which often basically amounts to a number of shoddy prison cells and a few faked control rooms (as well as a lot of undoubtedly stock footage), and the digital clarity is a plus and minus in this regard, making the film look better than it would otherwise look, but sometimes highlighting the literal seams in the low budget sets and props.
It's a very good image which belies the budget.
Nonetheless this isn't a technical fault of the video, which manages to avoid most problems - a hint of banding, a sniff of crush - but suffers most from the actually cinematography, with the DOP frequently struggling to maintain focus on his subjects, drifting a tiny bit occasionally.
It's not a big issue, but - again thanks to the digital shoot - it is noticeable more because the rest of the image remains so damn clear. Despite this it's an otherwise very good image which belies the limited budget.
Black Water Blu-ray SoundBlack Water's UK Blu-ray release has zero menu options beyond 'play film', which makes the fact that it defaults to a rather restrictive 2.0 track all the more frustrating. If you toggle your player's audio options, you'll find there's actually a superior LPCM 5.1 track which does a far more impressive job, but it's ridiculous that you have to go looking for it.
It's a solid enough audio accompaniment, if you can find the right audio track.
Dialogue remains well prioritised, keenly disseminated across the frontal array, whilst effects taken in the myriad weaponry - from automatic weapons, to silenced automatic weapons to handguns - whilst car screeches and smashing glass perforate the early scenes and ship-based effects are put into play once we set foot on the sub.
The score is as generic as you get, but knows when to kick into the right gear, and maintains pace across the piece. It's a solid enough audio accompaniment, if you can find the right audio track that is.
Black Water Blu-ray ExtrasNothing; not even a menu beyond "play movie".
Black Water Blu-ray VerdictJean-Claude Van Damme enters (arguably) the last few years in his action career having done his best over the last decade to make something of a comeback.
He acted his ass off in the surprisingly personal JCVD, delivered strong and ambitious Universal Soldier sequels a decade too late, and raised his profile as the villain in Expendables 2 (as well as doing the splits between trucks in a Volvo advert that went viral), playing the supporting sensei in a couple of Kickboxer reboot sequels, and even getting a shot at an Amazon Original TV series which could have been a great way to settle past debts in suitably satirical style (it was basically a send-up of many of his action movie motifs, mostly Timecop, whilst also being action-packed as well) had they retained the excellent wit of the pilot.
Unfortunately, the gig got cancelled, and he's doing films like this again, with fans back to hoping that his next projects (in this case a film about an ageing bouncer who has to take care of an 8 year old girl, and about a war vet trying to keep a couple of kids from joining a street gang) will turn out to be as good as they sound on paper - as good as Black Water sounded when everybody saw the pairing of Van Damme and Lundgren and saw the exceptionally well-cut (and thus also exceptionally deceiving) trailer.
Best served through watching it on a streaming channel.
This Region B-locked UK Blu-ray release delivers solid video and audio (notwithstanding the fact you have to search for the lossless 5.1 track), and makes for a decent enough release for really hardcore fans, especially given its retail price.
Those who are tired of seeing their favourite 80s/90s action icons churn out duds should probably consider it best served through watching it on a streaming channel when it eventually gets dumped there; you'll feel far better watching it then, figuring it's cost you nothing but your time.
Suggested retail price when reviewed: £9.99
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