Skip to main content

Cottonwood Heights Journal

Dan's Review: "Hunter Killer" not as bad as expected

Oct 27, 2018 12:39PM ● By Dan Metcalf

Gerard Butler in Hunter Killer - © 2018 Summit Entertainment.

Hunter Killer (Summit Entertainment)

Rated R for violence and some language.

Starring Gerard Butler, Gary Oldman, Common, Zane Holtz, Caroline Goodall, Alexander Diachenko, Michael Nyqvist, Ilia Volok, Mikhail Gorevoy, Igor Jijikine, Yuri Kolokolnikov, Toby Stephens, Linda Cardellini, David Gyasi, Gabriel Chavarria, Taylor John Smith, Michael Trucco, Ryan McPartlin, Richard Hills Jr., Carter MacIntyre.

Written by Arne Schmidt and Jamie Moss, based on "Firing Point" by Don Keith & George Wallace.

Directed by Donovan Marsh.


Whenever I review a movie starring Gerard Butler, I do a quick Internet search of his body of work, wondering when the last time was that he starred in a film I liked. I’m not trolling the Scottish actor, I’m actually looking to find some hope that I will attend at least one screening with the potential of being a pleasurable experience. Butler rose to fame after sporting some killer abs in Zack Snyder’s 300 in 2007. It’s been pretty much downhill since then, with a few successful voice acting stints in the How to Train Your Dragon animated franchise (in which his character is killed off). His latest action film is Hunter Killer, the story of a submarine commander’s mission to thwart an evil Russian plot to start a major war.

Butler plays Commander Joe Glass, a career Navy man just given his first command of the U.S.S. Arkansas, a “hunter-killer” class of nuclear submarines. Glass’ first mission is to investigate the sinking of another submarine in the Barents Sea near Russian waters. When the U.S.S. Arkansas arrives, Glass discovers that the ship is lost, sunken by a Russian sub. He also discovers that another Russian sub has been sunk, not by a torpedo, but from sabotage from within the vessel. The Arkansas also discovers that there are sailors trapped inside the wreckage of Russian sub, including Captain Sergei Andropov (Michael Nyqvist). Andropov and his crew are rescued by Glass’ team and brought onboard the Arkansas, much to the unpleasant protests of his senior officers, who think Andropov’s sub was responsible for the death of the Americans. Glass knows better and protects Andropov from being the victim of further hostilities.

Meanwhile, U.S. leaders are trying to deal with the Russian coup behind the sub sinkings. Admiral Fisk (Common) relies on the expertise of NSA senior analyst Jayne Norquist (Linda Cardellini) to find solutions that will prevent a full-out war with the Russian defense minister behind the coup. Fisk reports to Admiral Donnegan (Gary Oldman), a member of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. Fisk authorizes a SEAL team to infiltrate a Russian military post and kidnap the Russian president (Alexander Diachenko). The SEAL team is led by Lieutenant Bill Beaman (Toby Stephens).

The rest of the film centers on the crew of the Arkansas trying to maneuver the mine-ridden waters near the base in order to rendezvous with the SEAL team and the Russian president before the Russian rebels close in on them. Glass must have faith in his crew and even more faith that there are Russians who are not on side of the coup.

Despite the presence of Butler, Hunter Killer wasn’t as bad as I thought it would be. There are several scenes of intense action, camaraderie and suspense to keep audiences interested in the outcome. Even so, there flaws aplenty in the movie, mostly due to a lot of far-fetched and imaginative military protocol, shaky supporting performances, and implausible political scenarios. With so much stuff going on, you barely notice Butler, whose acting style can usually be described as “wooden” at best. One of the biggest disappointments is Gary Oldman, who plays a whiny, over-reactive military bureaucrat who yells the same way he did in Chris Nolan’s Batman trilogy. This time, he plays the uninformed leader with bad judgment who gets bailed out by underlings who obviously know better. Not very becoming of the recent Oscar winner in a role that is obviously beneath his talents.

Hunter Killer might rank up there with any Tom Clancy adaptation if not for such flaws, but in the end, it will go down in cinematic history as a mostly forgettable spy thriller.

Hunter Killer Trailer