Sub Movie ‘Hunter Killer’ is Absurd and Entertaining

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Average: 5 (1 vote) Oscarman rating: 3.5/5.0
Rating: 3.5/5.0

CHICAGO – The United States military as superheroes has never gotten a better workout than in “Hunter Killer,” the title that sounds like a Halloween-themed movie, but it’s a style of submarine that seeks to adjust our geo-political balance. Gerard Butler is the commander hoping to prevent World War 3.

There are several absurdities, starting with the casting. The rapper Common portrays a starchy military man but looks like he’s playing dress up, and has to hear lines from Gary Oldman (as the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff) like “I know you’re a war hero, but…” Gerard Butler is on an action movie streak (“Hunter Killer” was made by the same production team that gave us “Olympus Has Fallen” and “London Has Fallen” with Gerard), but his Scottish accent couldn’t pronounce the word “naval.” But the film moves along in a decent action-oriented pace, and does have a team of Navy Seals with a red bearded leader that would bite your head off if you said hello. That stuff was pure weird gold.

There is a crisis at a Russian Navy yard that alerts the Joint Chiefs of Staff and their chairman Donnegan (Gary Oldman) and aide Fisk (Common). A military coup of the Russian president (Alexander Diachenko) is taking place, and information is shared through NSA expert Norquist (Linda Cardellini). A “Hunter Killer” submarine is sent to investigate, with rogue Captain Glass (Gerard Butler) in command.

Accents on Board: Gerard Butler and Gary Oldman in ‘Hunter Killer’
Photo credit: Summit Entertainment

On the way to that Navy yard, the U.S. sub rescues a Russian sub captain (Michael Nyqvist) whose ship had been sabotaged as part of the coup. The two leaders bond, and along with a crack U.S. Navy Seal Team rendezvous at the site of the coup. The plan is to get the Russian president away from his captors and prevent upsetting the delicate balance between heroism and World War 3.

I admired the film’s “damn the torpedoes” approach to USA! USA! style action, and the sincerely in the actors reciting dialogue as if their lives depended on it. Gary Oldman was particularly hambone – the Best Actor Oscar winner of last year still has to pay the bills – and spouted the unintentionally funny military-macho diatribes as if he was playing to the back row. Common could barely wrap his mouth around Fisk’s bureaucratic speeches… he seemed like a high schooler portraying George S. Patton.

But credit goes to the rogue Navy Seal team (“Men, we just ceased to officially exist…”) who kept the action flowing. It was World War II movie time, as the crew had a tough-as-nails leader, the red bearded Beaman (Toby Stevens) and “the kid” Martinelli (Zane Holtz). Red Beard is exasperated by the kid, until he takes a bullet and is crucial to the team in the end. Will there be a scene of the Beard man-carrying the injured kid? Hell to the yes.

Captain My Captains: Michael Nyqvist for Russia and Butler for the USA in ‘Hunter Killer’
Photo credit: Summit Entertainment

Back on board the sub, Captain Gerard Butler manages to spit tough guy dialogue through his native Scottish brogue (Oldman, who has portrayed a ton of Americans, also seemed not to care if his British inflections were evident) and gets to use every sub movie cliché in the book. The boat in the the water scenes were pretty good, thanks to modern CGI, but the circumstances were straight out of every run-silent-run-deep movie ever made. Not that it mattered, for their high concept mission was what the film was all about.

Whenever I see a submarine movie, I always think of the writing class from the film “Throw Momma From the Train.” One of the students is writing a story about a submarine, and she writes “‘Dive… DIVE!’ yelled the captain through the thing. So the captain pressed a button, or something, and it dove. And the enemy was foiled again!” And thirty years later, “Hunter Killer” uses the same basic premise. DIVE!

“Hunter Killer” opened everywhere on October 26th. Featuring Gerard Butler, Gary Oldman, Common, Linda Cardellini, Michael Nyqvist and Toby Stephens Screenplay adapted by Arne Schmidt and Jamie Moss. Directed by Donovan Marsh. Rated “R” senior staff writer Patrick McDonald

Editor and Film Writer

© 2018 Patrick McDonald,

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