Hunter Killer movie review: A low-impact action entertainer that wastes Gerard Butler, Gary Oldman for cheap thrills

Hunter Killer movie


  • Cast: Gerard Butler, Gary Oldman, Michael Nyqvist, Common And Toby Stephens
  • Director: Donovan Marsh

Throughout the course of watching Hunter Killer, one tends to wonder two things – firstly why are Gerard Butler movies so consistently terrible, and secondly what cheque was Gary Old man given to star in such an unintentionally funny movie. This is an action thriller whose action barely registers, thrills feel cheap, and whose impact does not wade into the depths the submarine, featured so prominently in it, does.

A cut-rate Tom Clancy imitation, Hunter Killer introduces us to a submarine in the Arctic that suddenly explodes. Back in the Pentagon, Admiral Charles Donegan (Gary Oldman) announces that the next world war could be imminent and sends Joe Glass (Butler) in another submarine to recce the wreckage of the submarine to uncover what may have happened. Things go wrong very quickly as a Russian vessel shows up and causes havoc, plunging Glass and his crew to act fast and deal with a giant conspiracy unfolding in front of their eyes.

The film is directed by Donovan Marsh, who has made films called Spud and Spud 2, and written by the bloke who was responsible for the aggravating Ghost in the Shell. Hunter Killer belongs in the roster of Sharknado’s Asylum films, and given the content, should ideally not contain a single frame not oozing self-aware comedy. How anyone manages to keep a straight face during the entire movie is only indicative of how annoyed everyone must be for presumably being tricked into being in a film so schlocky. Now, it’s not that the performances are cringe-inducing that one should skip this movie, it’s not even that some of the visual effects seem out of a video game cut-scene, but it is the consistently serious tone that the film wears like a badge of honor, as if making some sort of a great geopolitical statement while firing cinematic manure from all cylinders under the garb of action.

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The politics portrayed in the movie, which given the current war that Russia is raging against the whole world, is problematic to say the least. Nuance is treated like a prisoner in Guantanamo as we see characters that range from ‘Russians who are terrible a**hats’, to ‘Americans whose blood is the colours of the US flag’, to NSA agents whose only job is to look grimly at computer monitors and repeatedly mention that their agency has dangerous reports. In content this coarse, the ultimate ‘lesson’ the final scene renders only leads to roaring unintentional laughter, because the history and ethics lesson seems like it has been sermonised to us by a weed smoking toddler. The submarines in the film firing missiles have more profundity than anything else put on the screen – in fact one of the characters proudly proclaims that he doesn’t know sh*t about politics. To give you a perspective, the climax of this movie and the new Johnny English movie are exactly the same.

As with most Gerard Butler movies, his presence in Hunter Killer is as impactful as a piece of ham in a white plastic bag. It takes a special talent to continuously choose awful action movies and keep crapping on the promise he showed with 300 ten years ago. The only rational explanation for his choice of films, including this one, is that his mentor is secretly Nicholas Cage who has given him the sage advice to be a nihilist and only make money by doing films that work against his talents.