Hunter Killer stars Gerard Butler as submarine commander Joe Glass. Glass has just been handed his very first command, aboard the USS Arkansas at a most inopportune moment. It is Joe’s task to take his hunter killer class sub crew into heavily guarded Russian territory and find out what happened to another hunter killer class sub which was sunk in the area, assumedly by a Russian sub that was also downed in the fight.
What Joe and his crew find is something quite unexpected, both subs appeared to have been attacked not by each other but by a third sub which subsequently begins attacking Joe’s sub. The Arkansas survives this encounter but having just sent another Russian sub to the bottom of the ocean, the international incident they were investigating may be exploding into World War 3 unless Joe can quickly figure out why this Russian sub has gone rogue.
Meanwhile, back in Washington D.C, the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Charles Donnegan (Gary Oldman) has tasked Rear Admiral John Fisk with sending a team of Green Berets into Russian territory so they can get close to where the Russian President Zakarin (Alexander Diachenko) and his top military secretary, Admiral Durov (Michael Gor) are holed up near where the subs have been downed.
What the Green Berets, led by Bill Beaman (Toby Stephens) finds is that there is a coup in process, the Russian President is the hostage of his top military secretary and the secretary is bent on starting World War 3. Now three arms of the American military, along with an advisor from the NSA (Linda Cardellini) must work together to come up with a plan to rescue the Russian President and avert World War 3.
I must admit, that sounds like a pretty great description of a first person shooter video game. Sadly, Hunter Killer is a movie and thus not nearly as much fun. Hunter Killer is the latest in a long line of lunkheaded military rehashes from Millennium Entertainment, the group that rescued Gerard Butler from the Hollywood ash heap and given him a second act as the purest example of lunkheaded, ill-conceived 80’s action movies, the new millenium Michael Dudikoff.
For those not among the 10 people who got that Michael Dudikoff reference, Dudikoff was the bargain action hero of Cannon Films, the group behind such glorious 80’s cheese as American Ninja, Avenging Force and the Missing in Action Franchise. Those examples should give you a good idea of the quality of Hunter Killer, we’re not talking high end action here, we’re talking about the kind of slapdash trash that used to go directly to drive-ins and eventually, directly to VHS.
Hunter Killer is supremely dumb and not in a fun way. Rather, Hunter Killer is dumb in the most boringly competent ways imaginable. Hunter Killer was directed by a newcomer named Donovan Marsh who is just inexperienced enough and just talented enough to miss the point of the movie he’s making. He doesn’t appear to understand that Hunter Killer is cheesy and thus he commits to the idea with all his talent, not realizing that everyone in the cast knows they’re working on something cheap and disposable. They know the company they’re working for.
Butler and Oldman have worked with Millennium Entertainment for years. Butler is there because Millennium was the only company willing to touch him after his toxic run of bombs from 2008 to 2011 that culminated with him playing a leprechaun in an almost career endingly bad segment of Movie 43. Oldman worked with Millennium because his name was just big enough to work on the box cover of a direct to DVD crime movie and their checks weren’t bouncing.
No surprise to learn that Hunter Killer was on the shelf for a while before Oldman re-established himself among the Hollywood elite with his Academy Award winning performance in Darkest Hour. Hunter Killer is the kind of movie that if it had come out around Oscar time last year it might have cost him Best Actor just as many speculated that Norbit cost Eddie Murphy Best Supporting Actor by arriving around the time he was nominated for Dreamgirls.
We know Hunter Killer has been moldering on the shelf for a while because one of the supporting actors, Michael Nyqvist died more than 18 months ago. It’s tragic that a fine, under-recognized pro like Nyqvist has Hunter Killer as the last thing on his resume but at least he was gone before the world had seen what a terrible film he’d closed his fine career with. Here’s hoping he was well compensated.
I realize that some people enjoy this stinky cheese of a movie but it’s definitely not for me. Butler is his usually dopey self, swaggering about spitting nonsense dialogue in his god-awful American accent. He doesn’t appear to care that he’s not acting but caricaturing American swagger in the most unfunny way possible. It’s hard to know if I pity Butler his complete lack of talent or if I am meant to laugh at his dimwitted burlesque attempt at bringing back the 80’s action movie.
Hunter Killer is bad in a most bland and peculiar fashion. It’s not shot poorly, it’s inoffensive in that the jingoism is tempered by having so many foreigners lead the cast of this American action movie, Butler, Oldman, and Toby Stephens, are not Americans and appear to have no interest in selling America f*** Yeah attitude that a true 80’s action movie would. Had this film actually starred Michael Dudikoff it would have ended with him planting an American flag in the heart of the dead foreign secretary while American jets flew over head dropping tiny American flags.
I guess, in that sense, we can consider Hunter Killer restrained. Not any good, but restrained. Unfortunately that restraint keeps the movie too tasteful to be bad in a fun way. Instead, the film is bad for being deathly dull, populated by bored actors either over-performing or under-performing masculine military cliches and spouting nonsense jargon that sounds cool but comes off like boys playing with toys and not serious-minded military adults.