U.S. Seals (2000)

U.S. Seals (2000)- * *1\2

Directed by: Yossi Wein

Starring: Jim Fitzpatrick, Greg Collins, Ty Miller, Justin Williams, Geff Francis, and Hayley DuMond

"Keep your eyes on the chicken"

Mike Bradley (Fitzpatrick) is the leader of a SEAL team which also includes his compadres Cosgrove (Collins), A.J. (Miller), Gaines (Williams), and Gepson (Francis). They are routinely sent around the world to dangerous hotspots to do what SEALs do best. Unfortunately, some of the baddies involved in one of their raids enacts a tragic retaliation on Bradley's family. Now burning with revenge, he travels to Albania (of course) to get justice. Along the way, he and his team enlist the help of the mysterious Lucia (Du Mond) - but where do her allegiances truly lie? Will Mike Bradley and his team be the ultimate U.S. SEALS?

What's interesting about U.S. Seals is that it starts off as your standard military slog - you know, the standard, run-of-the-mill type of thing you've seen countless times before. At about the midway point, however, it becomes more of a revenge movie. Against all odds, it picks up steam and becomes more entertaining than it was before. So, that does set it apart from some of its contemporaries.

One of its many problems, however, is that it needed more of a name to help things along. Someone like a Damian Chapa, Nick Mancuso, Arnold Vosloo, Jack Scalia, Antonio Sabato Jr., or maybe a Mandylor. Either Costas or Louis will do. The main guy is sort of Matt LeBlanc-esque and all the other actors seem like they would be more at home on a 90's TV sitcom like Friends or Seinfeld. Odd for a military outing like this.

The turnaround from just a plain 'movie on a screen' to an enjoyable revenge plot was the neat trick that U.S. Seals pulls off. Still, you never get to know the characters all that well, so it makes it harder for us, the audience, to care about their plight. But it transforms nicely enough starting from the second half, we suppose.

Of course, there's all the military jargon and mindless shooting you could ever ask for. It's easy to see why the great Isaac Florentine stepped in to direct U.S. Seals 2 (2001). He gave the second installment a lot of life and pizazz, as he usually does. So that was a smart move on Nu-Image's part to bring him into the mix, even if it was just to change things up.

Other items of note: both pagers and minidiscs are seen on display, there are some classic old-school guard-tower falls for fans of that, Bradley's son seems to develop a foreign accent about 45 minutes into the film, and when one of the Seal team members jumps from a train, he yells a very half-hearted (and thus very funny) "Aaaaah." 

The main (naturally and cliche-edly Eurotrash) baddie looks like some sort of genetic melange of Kurt Loder, Michael Pare, Sam Donaldson, Peter Jennings, and what Jerry O'Connell will likely look like in the future. But mostly Loder. Instead of preening about and/or fighting our main hero in the time-honored final fight, you think he and Tabitha Soren will deliver us the MTV news.

So, while the first half may be your workaday military slog, the change of course puts U.S. Seals in a somewhat unique position among DTV SEAL movies of this ilk. Is it an all-time classic you must run out and see immediately? Hardly - but fans of this sort of thing may appreciate some of the differences here.

Comeuppance Review by: Brett and Ty

Also check out a write-up from our buddy, The Video Vacuum! 


Black Water (2017)

Black Water (2018)- * *

Directed by: Pasha Patriki

Starring: Jean Claude Van Damme, Dolph Lundgren, Al Sapienza, and Patrick Kilpatrick

Wheeler (Van Damme) is described only as a "deep cover operative" for the government. He's also "The Best". Because his higher-ups, including Rhodes (Sapienza) and Ferris (Kilpatrick) think he "switched sides" and is now a traitor, they imprison him on a submarine. 

Because they're stupid enough to think Van Damme switched sides, they deserve everything they may have coming to them. Marco (Dolph) is in the cell next to Wheeler's, and they quickly bond. While (endlessly) trying to figure out who crossed and double-crossed him, Wheeler, and, to a lesser extent, Marco, have to fight their way out of certain situations on this mysterious submarine. Who will resurface from the BLACK WATER?

A Submarine Slog by any other name...

Don't get us wrong, we're very happy that legends like Van Damme and Dolph are still working and delivering product to us, the fans. But Black Water isn't exactly in the same realm as the Universal Soldier series. Except perhaps Universal Soldier: The Return (1999). 

We're also happy that you can pretty much see what's going on, at least in the non-submarine moments. There are a handful of shooting and beat-em-up scenes that are executed well enough. Unfortunately, this is where all our goodwill runs out. 

The main problem, at least for us, is that we were never fans of movies set on submarines (or Submarine Slogs, as we call them). It's just a dull, uninteresting setting that breeds repetition. This time around there are elements of prison movies and spy thrillers, but that honestly doesn't help things all that much.

I know we're talking about the world of DTV here, but Black Water isn't exactly theater-ready. It's more Wal-Mart ready. Have you ever been to a Wal-Mart (or some equivalent store), and you browse by the DVDs and Blu-Rays, and you see a movie - particularly an action movie - that you've never seen or heard of before? Like, "Black Water? What's this...?" This is pretty much one of those.

Hammering some heavy nails into this coffin are the fact that a. it's boring, b. it's very self-serious, but without much substance or reason to be, c. there's not enough Dolph, and d. the running time for all this is an inexcusable 105 minutes.

If Black Water (get the double meaning? In the movie, Van Damme mentions "black sites" and the title seems to be a reference to that mercenary group that changed its name to X, and also the fact that they're deep underwater) was 80 minutes and featured Dolph and Van Damme fighting through all the baddies that were trying to kill them, The Raid style, Black Water could've been a classic. But oh no, they couldn't do that. That would be too simple. They had to load up the movie with a bunch of inane dialogue about people trying to find "the dongle". 

First it was the tape, then it was the disc, then it was the thumb drive, and now the MacGuffin of the modern age apparently is the dongle. Although it is sort of amusing to watch actors try to say the word "dongle" with a completely straight face.

So, sadly, the negatives of Black Water outweigh the positives. The viewer, who clearly would not even be watching this unless they're a fan of Dolph and Van Damme, is submerged in the muck and mire of submarine slogginess. While the two guys are both good in the movie itself, what's swirling around them is more of a cesspool.

Comeuppance Review by: Brett and Ty

Also check out write-ups from our buddies, DTVC and The Video Vacuum!


Crossing Point (2016)

Crossing Point (2016)- * *1\2

Directed by: Daniel Zirilli

Starring: Shawn Lock, Maria Gabriela De Faria, Jacob Vargas, Luke Goss, and Tom Sizemore

When Michael (Lock), his girlfriend Olivia (de Faria), and their two friends travel to Mexico for a little vacation, little do they know what they've stumbled into. Olivia gets kidnapped by some drug-dealing baddies, who force Michael to cross the border with a backpack full of said drugs, or else they say they'll kill Olivia. 

Desperate and running out of time, Michael stumbles into Pedro (Sizemore), a man he thinks he can turn to for help. But who can he really trust? Meanwhile, hardworking cop Jesus Valencia (Vargas) is on the case, which leads to the entrance of Decker (Goss), an expert in these sorts of tense situations. Will Michael accomplish his mission and save Olivia? Or will something prevent him from reaching the CROSSING POINT?

As far as modern-day DTV actioners are concerned, Crossing Point isn't that bad. It's better than you probably think it is. It appears some energy and thought went into the production, and it's not mindlessly stupid like so many of its competitors. So we give it kudos for that. What the Sicario series is to mainstream cinemas, Crossing Point is to DTV. Keeping their budget constraints in mind, what they managed to pull together here deserves some credit.

It's still hard for us to see characters in these new movies constantly on their cell phones and drinking from plastic water bottles. You may have noticed that tough guys in the films of yore don't do these things. Of course, there's the tattooed stoner character with a man bun. He's the "Shaggy" of the piece. He seems like he should be shirtlessly playing the bongos with Matthew McConaughey. As for our hero, he's another effeminate millennial. He attempts to get less effeminate as the movie goes on, but it really seems like, in a prior age, he would have been on the cover of Tiger Beat magazine along with JTT and Andrew Keegan. Perhaps interestingly, Keegan was in April Rain (2014) with Luke Goss. 

Speaking of Goss, he doesn't show up until the 70-minute mark and it's a cameo, despite being front and center on the box art. All the Goss fans out there may be disappointed by this so consider it a warning. As for Sizemore, he really livens up the scenes he's in and the movie as a whole. Again, it's more or less a glorified cameo, but he gets more screen time than Goss. We still have to wait 40 minutes to see him. It's more or less worth the wait, however. In Assassin's Game (2015), his name is El Viejo. In Crossing Point it's Pedro. Are people casting Tom Sizemore as some sort of Hispanic man now? When did this start? And why did it start?

Anyway, it should also be noted that there is a 24-esque timer that periodically pops up on screen to let us know how Michael is doing time-wise. Well, that aside, Crossing Point as a whole is at least trying, which is a good thing, of course. It's also relevant as far as what's in the news today with the border, etc.

In the end, Crossing Point is at least a one-time watch. It makes a valiant attempt to be a good and worthwhile movie, which is rarer than you might think these days.

Comeuppance Review by: Brett and Ty