‘HUNTER KILLER’ is blasting into theaters this weekend with an ensemble cast headlined by Gerard Butler. Gary Oldman, Michael Nyqvist, Linda Cardellini and Common fill out the cast. With Donovan Marsh coming in to direct what it his largest project by far. The story in this one is very 90’s fictional military-action-movie-esque. You have an unconventional submarine commander that will have to work with an elite unit of Navy S.E.A.L.S. to rescue the Russian president who has been kidnapped by a rogue army attempting a government coup. It’s formulaic and filled with cliché character-types. But I must admit, it worked for me.
This wouldn’t be classed as a great movie by any means. But it was much better than I was expecting. It did entertain me throughout. Going in I was afraid it would give me nothing but Butler looking serious as a submarine commander, which it certainly did provide. But it delivered that and much more with enough effort, and story dynamics to be an entertaining time at the cinema. The story wove genuine suspense and tension when it needed to. There was just enough personality in the performances to make up for a lack of backdrop to them. And the result was routine character templates performed by familiar faces that made the most out of the material. I wouldn’t say you could connect with or care about these characters, but they had just enough charm and screen presence to hold my interest.
The first-act gets going quickly. But the middle of the film does drag a bit before getting to a very satisfying third-act. The film hovers around the two-hour mark and it did have lulls at times given the progression of the plot-line was not as fresh and intricately woven as it tried to give the impression of. I did however thoroughly enjoy the underwater submarine sequences. I enjoyed the depth of the aerial shots out at sea that capture the military fleets and it all resulted in some great action set-pieces. Had the script cut out some of the unneeded layers, it would have tightened things up nicely to give the film a true fast-paced action vibe that it had flashes of. Because there were some legitimately climactic moments that had me up in my seat.
The cast performances were all solid. Butler was a routine chin-up, chest-out caricature and simply put, it worked perfectly for this role. He did a lot of staring in this one and he was able to convey intensity and emotion without dialogue. Gary Oldman, as much as I love him was his usual ‘person in charge’ persona. He is a fantastic actor, but when he isn’t challenged, and is given a smaller role like this the performance will naturally feel familiar. Common and Linda Cardellini were both more than serviceable. They put in some visible effort and despite a lack of screen-time, and having generic dialogue to work with, they were able to weave some heart into characters that some actors would not have. So, for that aspect I was happy to see them take on some less-demanding roles, so they could add to the fun of this movie.
Now I’ll be honest, I didn’t pay too much attention to this movie prior to seeing it. I hear the name ‘Hunter Killer’ and see Gerard Butler in the lead, I naturally feel like I have seen it already. Promo material may not reach me despite all the while knowing, I’m going to probably see it since I love action movies. Which is why it was such a pleasant surprise to see the late Michael Nyqvist playing the Russian Captain. I genuinely love his work. It was tragic to hear of his passing and seeing him deliver another late performance brought a smile to my face. His addition to this movie was great. He stole every scene he was in and it was no surprise he was able to capture a sincere chemistry with Butler that worked perfectly for the needs of the plot.
The visual appeal of the film overall was well done. The special-effects were more than capable for the assumed budget of this movie. The underwater scenes were tense and had me on edge. The wide sweeping shots overhead captured the weight of the situations that the plot explored which I felt effectively created suspense and created ramifications to action-sequences. It was fun to see these massive fleets, and battle-ships maneuvering across the ocean, with submarines launching torpedoes. All the things you want in a fictionalized military-action movie. The subplot of the S.E.A.L. team splashed in nicely to provide some intense gun-play, with a handful of on-foot skirmishes that gave the overall serving of action a little bit of it all. These scenes were violent and gritty. They were well-captured to pull the viewer into them and in my opinion, they were the best parts of the film despite not being the focal point.
Regardless of it being very by-the-numbers plot wise, it’s still an action movie. Something this movie served up like going to the buffet. It was on the long side. But it filled the time with a lot of fast-paced set-pieces and a continually moving plot that felt like it took it self a little too serious at times. While also feeling like it was having fun with itself during others. The ensemble cast and a focus on action make this movie a good time and worth a matinée ticket to see on the big-screen. It’s routine in some places but in the end shows more than enough effort to be a good time with a bucket of popcorn.
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