There are probably folks out there yearning for the sort of wooden action films that used to feature Jean-Claude Van Damme.

There are also probably folks out there yearning for the sort of wooden action films that feature Dolph Lundgren.

Good news folks!

Well, not all that good for Lundgren fans (Raise your hands. Anybody?). Lundgren is indeed in the submarine would-be thriller "Black Water," but he doesn't do much. His big action scene involves holding one measly guy in a headlock for a while. One guy! The old (actually younger) Dolph could hold four guys in headlocks -- while taking turns punching their lights out.

Ah, age. It also factors into Van Damme's performance. He sports a certifiably awful dye job but even more tellingly the onetime "Muscles from Brussels" pin-up boy -- a guy who could do the splits while fighting, well, Dolph Lundgren -- hardly throws a punch in this movie. He's all about the firepower.

In real action films, guns are an item of last resort. Far better (and more cinematic) to pummel a foe. Ask Bruce Lee (OK, you can't, still ...).

But then this isn't a real action film; it's a shadow of one. Herein Van Damme plays a super spy who's captured by a corrupt faction of his own agency and imprisoned in a nobody-knows-about-it submarine. Lundgren's down under as well, a spy from some other agency also wrongly imprisoned. Hate it when that happens.

Anyway, Van Damme predictably breaks free and teams up with a much younger, improbably-hot-while-still-honest female agent who's not all that different from the much younger, improbably-hot agent he bedded in the film's opening. (They're played by Courtney B. Turk and Jasmine Waltz; hard to differentiate.) They then go around shooting bad guys.

After about an hour, they let Lundgren out of his cell and he gets that guy in a headlock. More shooting ensues.

You know, your typical prison break on a submarine movie.

Understand, "Black Water" is not an awful movie (that's the quote you'll read in ads: "Not an awful movie!"). In fact, it's kind of comforting cinematic cheese (that's the quote they should use: "Comforting cinematic cheese!").

It's a movie with rhythms you've seen many times before (unless you're 9) starring a couple of aging action stars whose years are never discussed, but always apparent. Given younger stars it would still be mediocre ... but somehow not as much fun.

'Black Water'


Rated R for violence and language

Running time: 105 minutes

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