The ‘cold war’ never honestly got all that warm…
While it’s not on the brink of winning any awards for acting (or even originality); Hunter Killer still works as a decent little throwback of a thriller where subs are shooting at each other, people are yelling at each other in government board rooms because one crazy guy just wants to stir the global melting pot.
Deep under the Arctic Ocean, American submarine Captain Joe Glass (Gerard Butler) is on the hunt for a U.S. sub in distress when he discovers a secret Russian coup is in the offing, threatening to dismantle the world order. Captain Glass must now assemble an elite group of Navy SEALs to rescue the kidnapped Russian president and sneak through enemy waters to stop WWIII.
You can’t honestly go looking for any kind of geopolitical accuracy in a movie like Hunter Killer but it’s brazenly dumb enough piece of right-wing propaganda that you can easily just shut your brain off and go for the ride that it takes us on.
Based on the book; Firing Point by George Wallace and Don Keith; Hunter Killer is really the kind of film that knows exactly what it is from beginning to end. There’s no subtext or political statements going on here, this is just a glossy piece of action nonsense with good guys having some questionable ethics, bad guys being not as bad as we initially thought and the crazy guys just being flat out nuts wanting world domination, World War III and anything else in between. The script from Arne Schmidt and Jamie Moss runs a predictable playbook, but that doesn’t mean it’s a bad one either as it all plays like comfort food pulled from thrillers of the 80’s and 90’s.
Director Donovan Marsh is a serviceable hand as the film has a genuine flow to it, never getting too bogged down in any specific moments. Sure it’s a little jammed with plot devices and obstacles for the characters, but Marsh gets through everything nice and quick allowing for the ensemble to chew the scenery and do what they do best.
While I do think that Gerard Butler probably deserves better then the B-Grade action hero roles he’s been pulling for the past few years, it’s hard to deny that he’s actually pretty good at it. He knows how to command the screen and be that larger than life hero that the film demands, and even when he’s occasionally saddled with some corn ball dialogue (like he is here) he still makes it work on sheer leading man charisma.
Sadly none of the other actors get to do much, Common is a Rear Admiral (Ok?), Gary Oldman is his boss and just yells alot for what has to be less the 7 minutes of total screen time and Linda Cardellini as a CIA agent does do a whole lot along with Michael Nyquist in a role as a Russian sub commander that just might have been his last. Only Toby Stephens as a Black Ops operator sent into enemy territory gets a few character moments to chew on some scenery.
Ultimately, Hunter Killer is a fun little thriller that doesn’t reinvent the wheel, but never tries to either and sometimes that’s OK.