Arts movie review

‘Hunter Killer:' a thriller? Maybe not

‘Hunter Killer’ entertains but doesn’t do more than that

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Gerard Butler stars as Captain Joe Glass in 'Hunter Killer.'
Courtesy of Lionsgate (Jack English)

Hunter Killer
Directed by Donovan Marsh
Screenplay by Arne L. Schmidt and Jamie Moss
Starring Gerard Butler, Gary Oldman, Toby Stephens, and Michael Nyqvist
Based on the book Firing Point by Don Keith & George Wallace
Rated R, Now Playing

There are different levels of a movie that qualifies as “Big Dumb Action Movie” (BDAM). At worst, it’s a plotless, meandering trip that substitutes explosions for a storyline. The very best BDAMs are excellent movies, but the plot still revolves more around the action (think The Avengers vs Saving Private Ryan). Don’t be fooled by the “Dumb” because BDAMs can be very good. However, the most common category I think BDAMs fall into are the one where you are solidly entertained for an hour and a half, but when reflecting on it afterwards, you realize that maybe it wasn’t as good as you thought. Hunter Killer squarely fits in this category.

Hunter Killer revolves around the efforts of Captain Joe Glass (Gerard Butler) as he is newly assigned to the submarine the USS Arkansas. Near Russian water, he discovers a U.S. submarine has been torpedoed and another Russian submarine has been sabotaged and left for dead. Meanwhile, a group of Navy SEALs in Russian territory are investigating the Russian military buildup when they report the Russian minister of defense enacting a coup by confining the Russian president to a military base. Washington launches a bold rescue attempt by sending in the Navy SEALs for the president and the USS Arkansas as the “getaway car.” Then begins a trip with suspense, gunfights, and, of course, lots of explosions.

If you asked me to rate Hunter Killer as I was leaving the movies, I would’ve given it four stars. I was engaged during the movie, and so was the audience around me. We clapped, laughed out loud, and cheered. After every suspenseful segment, you could hear a sigh of relief from every seat. So sitting down to write this review, I thought I would write a praising review. But as I began to reflect, I realized that everything wasn’t as great as I originally thought.

There is one gaping plot hole that picks apart the entire motivation of the movie. I don’t know if it counts as a spoiler, since you could figure it out from reading a synopsis or watching the trailer, but I’ll stay on the safe side (hint: communication between Washington and Moscow would’ve been great). The action scenes themselves were exciting, with the particularly good ones being suspenseful rather than an all out fight.

The acting, on the other hand, was good enough that I didn't notice major flaws in the movie, but looking back there were a few issues. While I thought Gerard Butler was portraying a stoic sea captain, I realize he could’ve been less stiff and unemotional in a few scenes. The best acting came from Toby Stephens, who played the leader of the Navy SEAL squad. Funny yet serious, he portrayed a typical military man willing to do anything for his country and most importantly his men.

If you asked me to rate Hunter Killer after I thought more about it, I would give it two stars. But I can’t forget how I felt about it during the movie. I was entertained, and it made me forget about all the work I hadn’t done yet, which is a pretty good excuse to watch a movie. Most people aren’t movie critics and probably won’t think about it much. (You can see this effect on Rotten Tomatoes: it only has a 35 percent rating among critics but the audience score has 90 percent liking it.) So, I settled for three stars in this review. Is it worth a movie ticket? Maybe not. Is it worth a rental for a movie night among friends? Definitely.