If there was ever more proof need to put Pablo Picasso’s remark, “good artists borrow, great artists steal,” to bed it’s the new Gerard Butler film. “Hunter Killer” borrows and out right steals elements from any number of movies, “The Hunt for Red October” chief among them, but is neither good nor great.
“Hunter Killer” takes place on land, on sea and on the phone. Based on the 2012 novel “Firing Point” by Don Keith and George Wallace “Hunter Killer” sees Butler as an unconventional US submarine Commander Joe Glass. He’s on a mission to find and rescue a missing U.S. sub when he stumbles across a popular 1990s plot twist—a Russian coup that threatens to demolish world order.
Stealthily cruising through enemy waters he becomes part of a three-pronged mission to rescue the Russian president, being held hostage in Russia by rogue Defence Minister Dmitri Durov (Mikhail Gorevoy). At sea level are Navy Seals led by Bill Beaman (Toby Stephens), National Security Agency analyst Jayne Norquist (Linda Cardellini), Rear Admiral John Fisk (Common), and, back home in America, Admiral Charles Donnegan (Gary Oldman in post-Oscar pay cheque mode) who barks orders at minions and into phones. It’s American-Russian collusion that could change the course of history!
Throw in a craggy-faced Russian submarine captain, Sergei Andropov (the late Michael Nyqvist)—we’re not enemies, we’re brothers—and you have a run-of-the-mill World War III scenario that was better the first few times we saw it. “It’s not about your side or my side,” Glass says to Andropov, “it’s about the future.”
“Hunter Killer” is so cheesy it should come with a side of saltines. Much of the dialogue sounds cribbed from the “Tough Guy ‘R Us” manual circa 1986—“He’s gonna play the hand he was dealt!”—spoken by characters so wooden they could easily double as buoys in the above water scenes.
At almost two hours ”Hunter Killer” is a waterlogged thriller, a sopping wet excuse for Butler to grunt his way through another film that is beneath his talent.