Well, this is a weird one. Too meek to class as an action flick, it’s more like a boneheaded political thriller, with a whiff of Roland Emmerich’s blockbuster hijinks. The most shocking element is its overwhelmingly positive portrayal of a distinctly Putin-esque Russian President.
Gerard Butler gets to be the big face on the poster, but his grizzled submarine captain (the hilariously-named Joe Glass), is just part of an ensemble cast that includes the shockingly overqualified Gary Oldman and Linda Cardellini, and also Common, who can’t seem to occupy any shot without looking weirdly awkward.
The plot involves a Russian coup that for some reason only a handful of American soldiers can resolve. It’s so straightforward I kept waiting for a twist that never arrived. There’s one character I was sure was secretly a baddie… nope.
Instead the movie just petered out and we all went home. Hunter Killer is replete with sub-TV level CGI and a lot of that thing they did in Star Trek where they had to pretend the set they’re on is shaking. Its message of peace being preferable to warfare is obviously admirable, and I’m sure the filmmakers’ hearts were in the right place, but it does seem an odd moment in history to blow kisses at Russia.
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I guess it’s better than the vicious xenophobia of Butler’s ‘Has Fallen’ franchise. In fact things get downright heartwarming near the end, which would be fine if there had been any tension during the movie. But it’s all pretty low-key, with no real stakes to grab hold of. Its most thrilling action sequence involves a submarine moving very slowly, before coming to a standstill.
The best thing that can be said about Hunter Killer is its most dramatic moments register as unintentionally funny (witness the increasing number of chuckles in my screening). Sadly we can’t grant stars ironically.