Review: Hunter Killer
Oh my, Beasts – where do we start with this submarine nightmare? Not with any fond memories of 1995’s Crimson Tide, so stop those, stop it, rightnowstop! We are reviewing Hunter Killer, and no, St. Denzel is not here to save you.
This spy-genre thriller stars an actor I mostly cheer for, Gerard Butler, and other top-billed names that usually don’t disappoint – Gary Oldman, Linda Cardellini, and even the esteemed thespian Common.
And, now that the real-life Russians are reclaiming their place as the baddies, this movie scenario could have been intriguing. We begin deep under the Bering Sea, where nuclear submarines, some US, some Russian, are stalking each other. This hide-and-seek-but-no see brought me to my first big question: I admit I’m just a writer and not a naval captain, but how are these massive vessels looming in the same visual frame, but one can’t see the other, at all, on radar or even by opening a window to have a look out? The Yanks brag, ha, the Russkies, they have no idea we’re up their ass, man… we’re just checking them out, like, surveillance style. Suckers!
Then boom, one gets blown up – it must be the US sub, because the Art Department painted the air ducts with Stars and Stripes so we’d have a clue who’s who in this not well explained but properly multicultural kick-off action sequence. They go boom, the Russians go likewise, and then lots of acting, reacting, and before things can get too World War 3ish, the Pentagon sends another sub to check it all out.
Help! We need a Hunter Killer Commander!
Confession two, not only am I not a submarine commander, but I also don’t know if the current US military procedure is – in times of crisis – to activate the staffed-up and trained subs they have laying around, or call in a favor from a rogue commander, a manly, veteran potential hero who is either off duty or gone wild. Damn protocol, get me Joe Glass! Glass, at the time of the incident, is hunting moose in northern Scotland. Hunting solo, in the snow. With only a bow. And really squinting.
Here’s where we learn all we need to know about Butler’ character. Glass has a clear shot on the animal – the defiant moose as much as gives him the stink eye – but just THEN, his moose wife and the moose baby wander into view. Glass, with a sigh, stands down. He just can’t, you guys. He cares. And… then, up in the snowy Highlands, his phone rings.
Hunter Killer has a worthy cast, but…
None of these actors seem at all settled into their roles. The performances and the vibe, it all seems slightly wrong, even down to the bun in Linda Cardellini’s hair. Butler looks constipated, Common, half asleep, and Gary Oldman must have been too busy polishing his Oscar – no, not a euphemism – to decide on a plausible accent or a reason to be there. Oldman’s white-haired Pentagon muckety muck man shouts something about chess and then disappears for a while, thanking Zeus he is not stuck on that underwater highschool drama department. On said vessel, the sub’s XO, played by Carter MacIntyre, practically rolls his eyes as he questions everything his commanding officer Butler orders or thinks. Again, I’m not the expert here, but are you allowed to do that on a ship, during an emergency? Or, ever? Have fun at the court martial!
Drama under the ice
The baddies are bad, the good men are heroes, duh, til we and they realize, we are all God’s children, and not so different after all. All of these captive characters are directed with way too much bravado by Donovan Marsh, and in that department, I actually wish Hunter Killer was a bit worse. It isn’t bad or fun enough to be Sub-nado, so I must recommend you stay above water, get on the couch and rent Crimson Tide.
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A former ABC National, Dallas and Atlanta radio personality, Martina O'Boyle is now making movies and covering culture in London, Dublin, and as far in Europe as the cheapie flights will take her, for Pop Culture Beast.