If you’re searching for the dumb Gerard Butler movie of the year, you will have found it in submarine non-thriller, Hunter Killer.
When a US submarine goes down while pursuing a Russian sub, it’s Captain Joe Glass (Gerard Butler) to the rescue. The USS Arkansas’s submarine captain recently departed for another gig so Navy officials must go outside the box for the new one. He’s not an Annapolis guy so of course, the crew is hesitant to accept him at first.
As Glass and crew take care of things beneath the surface, it’s the four ex-Navy SEALs off the grid that discover what’s really happening. Once they get the op up and running, we learn that the Minister of Defense wants the president out of his way. A coup! It then becomes a daring mission to save the Russian president at all costs.
On the bottom of the sea, some Russians are holding on for dear life and one of them just happens to be Captain Andropov (Michael Nyqvist). What better way to increase your chances of survival with the guy who trained everyone whose trying to kill you?
Back on the mainland, CJCS Charles Donnegan (Gary Oldman), Jayne Norquist (Linda Cardellini) and Rear Admiral John Fisk (Common) are running the operation from the Defense Department. They also advise the president on what they should and shouldn’t do.
For as dumb and mindless as Hunter Killer may be, what makes it different than other submarine-focused films is the period. It’s a film that takes place after the Cold War. The tension between the US and Russia isn’t quite the same but the “mad man” whose running around the Russian naval base has the entire navy at his arsenal. G-d forbid something happen to make him crack even more. Regardless of which, the thrills don’t hit at the impact in which they should for this sort of film. They’re honestly lacking in that regard.
It also speaks to the troubles of adapting a book into film. The book is some 700 pages long. The film runs just about 2 hours. Unfortunately, the novel doesn’t quite translate on the screen. It’s unfortunate because there’s so much potential. The war room, submarines, and land operations have the potential for so many thrills. The thrills never come. No matter how much we want it, they’re just…missing.
It’s not so hard to imagine the start of World War 3. Every day something happens that inches closer to such possible day. As much as any of us want to declare the events depicted in this film as preposterous, the reality is that they could happen. I give the screenwriters credit for making the president a woman. If there’s any refreshing change in watching the president in action, it’s that she’s acting presidential.
I don’t know what it is about Gerard Butler and his attraction to films that just aren’t good. This one doesn’t even have him in action star mode like other films. The submarine setting leads to a condensed space where you can only do so much. You get more of the same Butler with Hunter Killer as the film that takes us to the bottom of the ocean with it. A dire shame, really.
If you’re looking for a film that you will distract you from the darkest timeline or your rights being trampled on, Hunter Killer is not that film.
DIRECTOR: Donovan Marsh
SCREENWRITERS: Arne L. Schmidt and Jamie Moss
CAST: Gerard Butler, Gary Oldman, Common, Linda Cardellini, and Toby Stephens