“Hunter Killer” is a military thriller in the vein of “The Hunt for Red October.” Gerard Butler captains a fast-attack submarine while a SEAL team scrambles to rescue the Russian president from a warmongering Russian defense minister, while well-dressed Washington insiders untangle bureaucratic fiascos back home.
Butler’s character, Captain Joe Glass of the US Navy, plays the classic military maverick. He’s gruff, more at home with the enlisted sailors than the ring-knocking Annapolis grads. He runs his sub his own way, has a mysterious and implied-to-be-troubled past, and coolly carries his people through crisis after crisis with gravitas and certainty. Back home, Gary Oldman plays Charles Donnegan, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff—the harried back-bench warfighter screaming down the chain of command at Rear Admiral John Fisk, played by former rapper Common, and National Security Agency Senior Analyst Jayne Norquist, played by Linda Cardellini.
These characters are just as cliché as they sound, but to the cast’s credit, each plays their respective cliché to the fullest potential possible. So they are hackneyed, but it’s an enjoyable kind of hackneyed. That describes roughly the entirety of the film. The brilliant American sailors and special forces operators rescue the Russian president and defeat the rogue defense minister, preventing World War III and earning the respect of their Russian counterparts. This is the same movie that has been made before, and it has been made better. But that doesn’t necessarily make this movie bad; it just makes it unoriginal, and unoriginal can be fun at times. The CGI for the sub-on-sub combat isn’t “Avatar” quality, but it’s decent. The gunplay is functional. And as I said, the cast, especially Butler, play their clichéd roles as well as they can be played. If you’re looking for a simple action movie, this will do the job.
All in all, three out of five.
Unnecessary, but serviceable.