Review – Submarine thriller ‘Hunter Killer’ is too dull to find campy charm

Poster for 2018 submarine thriller Hunter Killer

Genre: Thriller
Certificate: 15
UK Release Date: 19th October 2018
Runtime: 122 minutes
Director: Donovan Marsh
Writer: Arne Schmidt, Jamie Moss
Starring: Gerard Butler, Gary Oldman, Common, Zane Holtz, Michael Nyqvist, Alexander Diachenko, Mikhail Gorevoy, Caroline Goodall, Linda Cardellini
Synopsis: A submarine crew must attempt to rescue the Russian President from a mad military leader and avoid nuclear war.



If you were to enter a multiplex right now and see one of the enormous posters for Hunter Killer, you’d be forgiven for thinking your eyes have deceived you. Everything about this film, from title to cast to premise to poster, suggests the sort of movie that will be available for a quid in your local supermarket, rather than a major cinema release. In fact, had it been one of those films, it might have been more interesting. Never before have nations on the brink of nuclear war been so boring.

It’s frankly remarkable that a movie featuring major tensions between America and Russia has arrived in the current climate, but the film goes to great lengths to essentially hold up a ‘Not All Russians’ banner. In fact, the central objective of Gerard Butler‘s submarine captain Joe Glass is to assist a Navy SEAL team in the rescue of the benevolent Russian president Zakarin (Alexander Diachenko). He has been subject to a brutal coup and is in the clutches of Durov (Mikhail Gorevoy) – a military boss and a man so obviously malevolent he may as well be called Soviet Gollum.

So far, so silly. There’s a parallel reality in which Hunter Killer doubles down on B-movie silliness and proves to be an enjoyable ride. In this world, however, the film is soporific nonsense from start to finish. Everything is played with a totally straight face, as if two hours of sneering Russian villains and Gary Oldman yelling could be anything other than ridiculous. Oldman, especially, is better than this sort of stuff and you can expect these trash roles to tail off now he’s an Oscar winner.

Butler is somehow both grizzled and green as the maverick sub captain at the centre of what is ostensibly the story’s main narrative. He’s a man who claims to have “been underwater all my life” – a water birth, presumably? – and says, without irony, in the third act that he and a Russian counterpart are “no different, you and I”, showing an adherence to cliché of which even Nicholas Sparks would be proud. It’s a standard growling Butler performance, but one that has little material impact on the action until the third act, with the half-baked Navy SEAL story of far more importance.

Not only is Arne Schmidt and Jamie Moss’s script, adapted from a novel, utterly incoherent and entirely ridiculous, but it lacks any sort of spark of excitement. It’s a miserable, overlong movie that squanders an impressive ensemble cast – Linda Cardellini! Michael Nyqvist! Common! – in order to focus on bland macho men growling at each other in the dark. It’s a film called Hunter Killer, in which the eponymous craft does very little hunting or killing. If you’re going for a B-movie title, you have to deliver on it. Just look at Sharknado. Say what you like about those films, but there’s definitely a Sharknado in them.

Pop or Poop?

Rating: Poop!

Sometimes a movie with a concept as silly as Hunter Killer can work. If these films lean in to their ridiculousness, they are often ludicrously entertaining and silly slices of escapism. Donovan Marsh‘s movie, though, is leaden and weighed down by its own devotion to a straight-faced, serious tone. It’s a seasick snooze.


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