Living up to its own name, the new submarine action film Hunter Killer succeeds in both hunting down and killing any semblance of potential that it may have had based on its premise that is admittedly kind of interesting on the surface. But just like the hilariously bad computer-generated submarines shown throughout the movie, once you dive down below the surface of Hunter Killer, the things that you’ll inevitably stumble upon are fun to watch.
This movie tells the story of an American submarine crew’s mission to prevent World War III from beginning after a rogue Russian general starts a coup against his country’s government. It also loosely follows a group of four foot soldiers as they attempt to evacuate the Russian president from the extremists who are participating in the coup. As previously mentioned, the idea behind this movie is quite good, but the execution is far from worthy of the premise.
Hunter Killer was directed by Donovan Marsh, a relative newbie in the world of mainstream films featuring A-list actors, and his lack of significant experience is quite noticeable in the final product. The movie has a pretty decent cast, which includes Gerard Butler, Gary Oldman, and Common, but it feels as if most of the $40 million budget went toward assembling the cast and the rest of production was severely neglected.
The first and most noticeable place where the film’s quality suffers are the awful displays of computer-generated imagery during scenes that depict any sort of combat or that take place underwater. The design of the CGI submarines looks horribly fake, and none of the explosions, whether they are above or below sea level, are even moderately convincing. The most hilarious example of this comes toward the beginning of the film, when a Russian submarine is attacking the American sub, and it is hiding from the Americans by resting directly underneath the Arctic ice at the ocean’s surface. The shots of the submarine nestled in the ice are laughably bad, and it completely disrupts the viewer’s immersion into the film.
There are a bunch of scenes in Hunter Killer that look as though they were added last minute in a desperate attempt to either pad the running time or properly explain the story, the first and most obvious being the first scene of the film. In it, a U.S. submarine is tailing a Russian sub through Arctic waters, and the set that is supposed to be the interior of the American sub is atrocious. The “control room” is basically a slightly oversized janitor’s closet with three desktop computers and office chairs, and there are even some wonderfully out-of-place basic air conditioning ducts that, as a bit of research will show, would never have been used in submarines. There are then three analysts “controlling” the sub with a fourth person acting as their captain, and he legitimately communicates with the rest of his crew using a walkie-talkie instead of the mounted landline phones that are used in every other submarine in the entire movie. This scene was very clearly made in a rush so that there could be an opening scene to the film, and it is absolutely hilarious.
The final glaring issue with Hunter Killer is its apparent refusal to have any of the characters undergo a natural, realistic character arc throughout the film. Each character either does not change whatsoever or changes drastically for no reason at all. For example, Gerard Butler’s character, Captain Joe Glass, doesn’t do anything wrong for the entire movie. He is introduced as an amazing captain, and he is perfect from start to finish. His second-in-command doesn’t change either, consistently opposing everything Glass does and being wrong every time without fail.
The antithesis to these two is Zane Holtz’s character, who is one of the four foot soldiers trying to save the Russian president. In his first scene, he is shown to be a pretty terrible soldier, and from then on, his entire character can be described as “the guy who sucks at everything,” because that’s exactly what he does. He screws up everything he does for most of the movie, but then at the end of the film, he suddenly does everything perfectly and saves the day. His character never shows signs of improvement, but the scriptwriters decided that he would get an unwarranted redemption scene.
Hunter Killer is a very bad movie, but it’s not an insulting kind of bad. Instead, it’s a “so bad it’s funny” kind of terrible film, which has some value. This would be a great movie to see with a group of friends if you want a good laugh, but it has very little more to offer than that. If you’re looking for a cohesive, intelligent film, Hunter Killer is floating in uncharted waters.
Featured Image by Summit Entertainment