‘Hunter Killer,’ Starring Gerard Butler & Gary Oldman, Pegged For October Release
Hunter Killer, the project that was at one time on the Relativity slate, will open this fall from Lionsgate’s Summit label. The actioner starring Gerard Butler, Darkest Hour Oscar winner Gary Oldman and Michael Nyqvist actioner will drop into theaters on October 26 in wide release.
Directed by Donovan Marsh, Hunter Killer was considered one of the better screenplays to come out of Relativity. Adapted by Arne Schmidt and Jamie Moss from a 2012 Don Keith and George Wallace novel Firing Point, the story is about an untested American submarine captain who teams with Navy SEALs to rescue the Russian president, who has been kidnapped by a rogue general.
The only other film set to bow on that day is Paramount Pictures’ Overlord, from screenwriters Billy Ray and Mark L. Smith, about American soldiers behind enemy lines on D-Day.
Film Review: ‘Hunter Killer’ Gerard Butler plays an American submarine commander in a U.S.-vs.-Russia thriller that drowns in ponderously out-of-date Cold War clichés.
Director: Donovan Marsh With: Gerard Butler, Gary Oldman, Common, Michael Nyqvist, Linda Cardellini, Zane Holtz, Caroline Goodall, Akexander Diachenko, Mikhail Gorevoy, Yuri Kolokolnikov. Release Date: Oct 26, 2018 Official Site: www.imdb.com/title/tt1846589/
It’s no trick for even a ham-handed global action thriller to achieve a ripped-from-the-headlines “topicality.” Just throw in a terrorist from the right enemy nation, or an American president with the right haircut. So it’s a weird and musty Twilight Zone indeed that one enters to watch “Hunter Killer,” a grindingly ponderous and bombastic neo-Cold War submarine thriller — how ponderous is it? It stars Gerard Butler, and he’s the most lighthearted thing about it — that in every relevant detail seems three years, if not two decades, behind the times.
Consider its take on the U.S. president. The character, played by Caroline Goodall, is transparently modeled on Hillary Clinton. As a result, one watches her scenes utterly removed from the drama (I use the term loosely) and preoccupied, instead, with thoughts like, “Was this film really shot that long ago?” It was. Principal photography on “Hunter Killer” began in July 2016, and the producers clearly based their script on the presumption that a certain Democratic candidate would end up as “Madame President.” Arriving in the thick of the madness of the Trump era, however, the film, intentionally or not, seems to say, “Who cares if she didn’t win? Even reality won’t make us budge.”
The movie’s version of the Russian leadership is, if anything, even more jarringly out-of-date. “Hunter Killer,” which is named for its lead submarine, is about an underwater face-off between the U.S. and Russia, but the plot hinges on an attempted coup. The Russian leader, President Zakarin (Alexander Dianchenko), is no autocratic Putin figure but a decent diplomatic dude who seems to have graduated from the Gorbachev school of constructive engagement. He’s taken down in a military sabotage led by Durov (Mikhail Gorevoy), the runt-bully Minister of Defense, who comes off as sort of…Soviet. He’s like the joyless Communist version of a Bond villain from the mid-’60s, and he doesn’t even have most of the Army behind him. He’s just a rogue pest.
There’s a lot to be scared of in the world today, but “Hunter Killer” summons all the topical passion of a night spent rewatching “The Hunt for Red October” on Netflix. It’s a Cold War nostalgia movie, like something based on a Tom Clancy novel that’s long past its sell-by date. Mostly, though, “Hunter Killer” will make you nostalgic for the era when people who made movies like this one actually knew what they were doing. It takes an entire hour to get to the attempted coup, and by the time that happens you realize that everything that led up to it has been a meaningless and over-extended set-up. Which is why it’s so dull.
Instead of launching the kind of countdown excitement that has marked superior submarine thrillers like “Crimson Tide,” “Das Boot,” or “U-571,” “Hunter Killer” shifts over to a generic team of Navy SEALS (your heart will sink with tedium each time the movie cuts to them), who have to bust into the Russian military compound where Durov has taken over. It’s their job to extract the Russian president, which they ultimately do, and it’s then up to Butler’s tight-jawed, hardcore, battle-creased Capt. Joe Glass, commanding the USS Omaha, to give him safe haven, and to defeat the Russian scoundrels by refusing to get sucked into their game of chicken.
The twist, to the extent that the movie has one, is that Butler, for all his terse swagger, is playing a good liberal. He’s the biggest bruiser on the submarine, but he’s got to teach the other men, like the ship’s fanatical XO (Carter MacIntyre), to get their torpedo-happy impulses under control. If the movie has a message, it’s this: Tough guys stand down.
But “Hunter Killer,” with its combination of rote action and “responsible” out-of-time schlock geopolitics, just left me wishing it was a Steven Seagal movie. Butler showed flashes of unruly life in his last picture, the heist drama “Den of Thieves,” but here he’s back to his old granite scowl; he’s like the face of P.J. O’Rourke carved into a wooden nickel. Gary Oldman, in a performance given before he won the Oscar, shows up and goes blowhard hysterical as the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and Common, who seems to be carving out a career playing the kind of conservative establishment honchos you’d never expect Common to play, exudes a likable authority as a rear admiral in the situation room. Michael Nyqvist, in one of his last roles, has a mournful grace as a fallen Russian submarine captain. “Hunter Killer” has good enough actors, but it never figures out what to do with them. They’re stuck in an underwater vacuum, a submarine movie that submerges anything of interest.
Film Review: 'Hunter Killer'
Reviewed at Bryant Park Screening Room, Oct. 17, 2018. MPAA Rating: R. Running time: 121 MIN.
PRODUCTION: A Summit Premiere and Millennium Media release of an Original Film, Relativity Media, Millennium Media, G-Base production. Producers: Neal H. Moritz, Toby Jaffe, Gerard Butler, Alan Siegel, Tucker Tooley, Mark Gill, John Thompson, Matt O’Toole, Les Weldon. Executive producers: Avi Lerner, Trevor Short, Boaz Davidson, Yariv Lerner, Douglas Urbanski, Lati Grobman, Christa Campbell, Arne L. Schmidt, Ryan Kavanaugh, Ken Halsband, Kevin King, Christine Otal.
CREW: Director: Donovan Marsh. Screenplay: Arne L. Schmidt, Jamie Moss. Camera (color, widescreen): Tom Marais. Editor: Michael J. Duthie. Music: Trevor Morris.
WITH: Gerard Butler, Gary Oldman, Common, Michael Nyqvist, Linda Cardellini, Zane Holtz, Caroline Goodall, Akexander Diachenko, Mikhail Gorevoy, Yuri Kolokolnikov.