Qu’est-ce que c’est?
Synopsis: Deep under the Arctic Ocean, American submarine Captain Joe Glass is on the hunt for a U.S. sub in distress when he discovers a secret Russian coup is in the offing, threatening to dismantle the world order. With crew and country on the line, Captain Glass must now assemble an elite group of Navy SEALs to rescue the kidnapped Russian president and sneak through enemy waters to stop WWIII. (VVS Films)
Starring: Gerard Butler, Gary Oldman, and Common
Writers: Arne L. Schmidt and Jamie Moss
Director: Donovan Marsh
Rating: 14A (Canada)/R (United States)
Running Time: 121mins
It’s easy to get the wrong impression of this film based on its title. Hunter Killer was perhaps not the best title to describe it but for those who don’t know, it’s a type of submarine. Based on all the promotional materials for the film, it is indeed a submarine film though it’s also a lot more. It is this fact that will surely lose some viewers as the story quickly became a political thriller fought on multiple fronts, however, don’t expect any character development or even characters or a story for that matter. This was never going to be on of those films and your enjoyment of it will depend on your ability to turn your brain off and not think for just over 2 hours.
The story here was ridiculous without going over the top but it was rarely clear as to what was going on. The story involved some sort of political turmoil in Russia as a secret coup threatens the world order. Opposed to the competition, it was up to an unproven submarine captain named Joe Glass (Butler) and an elite group of Navy SEALs to rescue the kidnapped Russian president Zakarin (Alexander Diachenko) and sneak through enemy waters to stop WWIII, all while Chairman of the Joint Chiefs Charles Donnegan (Oldman) and Rear Admiral John Fisk (Common) watched from command. As far as the viewers is concerned, the film featured military people saying and doing military things while accompanied by generic tense music though most of it didn’t mean anything which kind of took away from what was happening.
Ultimately, it became very easy to be bored or even care about whatever was happening. Despite this, the film still managed to be somewhat exciting to watch, although for arguably the wrong reasons. As mentioned, the story was ridiculous, the score was derivative, the special effects were spotty a best with bouts of obvious CGI and green screens, and the dialog was mediocre to bad, however, all of these were redeemed by the film’s B-movie-ness, intentional or not. Nothing was particularly original or new about it but there was still some fun to be had here. The submarine scenes were the best of the four fronts because of Glass. He was the most interesting character almost by default amongst cliches.
The best part of the film was Butler’s performance as Glass. It’s weird to say that a Butler performance would be the best part of anything but this was the case here. Perhaps more due to the writing and direction, the character could easily have gone over the top, however, Butler plays it restrained enough that he didn’t take over the narrative. Instead of giving him a chance to really take charge, they had to still focus on everyone else, leaving us to wonder what could have been. He was still compelling enough, granted he wasn’t quite believable as a submarine captain. Everyone else, including Oldman, Common, and Linda Cardellini as Jayne Norquist were wasted with mediocrity.
Overall, while not a masterpiece by any means, its roughness around the edges was easy to overlook as it was still a somewhat entertaining action thriller with a B-movie feel thanks to its ridiculous story and characters, spotty visual effects, and mediocre dialog. Of course, enjoying the film means turning off your brain for 2 hours but it is definitely not a bad time to be had and is actually a decent Gerard Butler film for once.