Hunter Killer Review
The hunt for a good sub thriller
Gerard Butler and Gary Oldman combine for subpar submarine escapades in a testosterone-driven under-the-sea wannabe epic.One of the best things about Hunter Killer is that it’s upfront about what it is. We’ve seen these films before – it’s a war thriller with a large portion of the shouty action set in a submarine. The Hunt For the Red October it is not. Nor does this film have the tense thrills of Crimson Tide. But Hunter Killer is, in parts, a gang-busting, set piece-heavy epic with just enough decent acting and spectacular effects to stop it from sinking under the weight of absurdity.
If you’ve seen the trailer and wanted to see this film, you’re unlikely to be disappointed.
Commander Joe Glass (Gerard Butler), after a period of quasi-political action (mostly bellowing across war rooms), is dispatched on a mission to rescue the Russian president, who’s being held hostage by his rogue Defence Minister Dmitri Durov (Mikhail Gorevoy).
Some of the characters on Glass’ side include NSA Analyst Jayne Norquist (an excellent Linda Cardellini), Navy Seal Bill Beaman (Toby Stephens), Admiral Charles Donnegan (Gary Oldman), and Rear Admiral John Fisk (Common). The film pretty much focusses on these groups of American officials, with the Russians not really getting much screen time, until there’s a meet-cute between the American sub and its Russian counterpart, led by Captain Sergei Andropov (Michael Nyqvist). Cue intense glances, aggressive hand gestures and a charming trans-Arctic Ocean bromance.
There’s a lot of silliness to love here – delightfully stereotypical storyline, smoulderingly sincere monologues, lots of intense eye contact – but Hunter Killer doesn’t always seem to know it’s silly.
There’s a lot of shouting and some genuinely exciting action sequences, but there’s a lack of wry self-awareness, which in combination with the over-the-top theatrics can make for some heavy viewing. Lest we forget, this is a cast with multiple Academy Award-winners, and at times the ridiculous plot threatens to overshadow them. Case in point is Glass himself, a man practically spilling over with action movie clichés – he’s every character Butler is known for, combined. That said, Butler is strong as the gruff Commander, Oldman is entertainingly irate, and Cardellini brings a lot of life to the thankless role of Norquist, the only woman who really gets to say much of anything.
If you’ve seen the trailer and wanted to see this film, you’re unlikely to be disappointed. It’s one of those does-exactly-what-it-says-on-the-tin jobs; you’ve got your tense stand-offs, your macho leading man, your sly Russian enemies, your explosive underwater battles, your insane amount of Gary Oldman yelling.
The underwater challenges and the land-based rescue operations are the best scenes in the film, and are well handled by director Donovan Marsh. Unlike various other submarine-based films, there isn’t an overawing amount of dark and dingy action set under the waves; the film’s focus flits with impunity between three main action centres, and by setting much of the action on land, the claustrophobia of lots of submarine scenes is avoided.
It’s unlikely anyone will wander into a screening of Hunter Killer without knowing what they’re in for.
It’s unlikely anyone will wander into a screening of Hunter Killer without knowing what they’re in for, so it’s unlikely anyone will expect a cinematic masterpiece. It’s fairly good at what it does – it’s fast-paced, gets the adrenaline pumping and offers Gerard Butler a platform from which to act all heroic.
Don’t expect anything groundbreaking from Hunter Killer, though connoisseurs of this sort of bombastic thriller will no doubt be pleased with what it’s got to offer. It follows the conventions of a masculine, pumped up action film pretty much to a tee, even adding in extra convoluted storyline and a bit of intrigue by way of a slightly subtle performance by Butler.
It takes itself very seriously, there are lots of laughable clichés, and Gary Oldman seems to have wandered on set by accident, but fans of Gerard Butler’s oeuvre will likely find elements to provoke interest.
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