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With: Gerard Butler, Gary Oldman, Common, Linda Cardellini, Zane Holtz, Caroline Goodall, Alexander Diachenko, Michael Nyqvist, Ilia Volok, Mikhail Gorevoy, Igor Jijikine, Yuri Kolokolnikov, Toby Stephens, David Gyasi, Gabriel Chavarria, Taylor John Smith, Michael Trucco, Ryan McPartlin, Richard Hills Jr., Carter MacIntyre
Written by: Arne L. Schmidt, Jamie Moss, based on a novel by George Wallace, Don Keith
Directed by: Donovan Marsh
MPAA Rating: R for violence and some language
Running Time: 121
Date: 10/26/2018

Hunter Killer (2018)

2 1/2 Stars (out of 4)

Sub Genre

By Jeffrey M. Anderson

This military thriller starts stiffly, and not everyone seems fully committed, but as it gets going and the pieces come together, it becomes a passably tense entertainment for fans of huge explosions.

In Hunter Killer, an American submarine is torpedoed near Russia, and the unorthodox, street-smart-over-book-smart captain Joe Glass (Gerard Butler) is called in to investigate. Shockingly, he discovers that a nearby Russian sub has been sabotaged, and he chooses to rescue its captain (Michael Nyqvist) from the ocean floor.

Meanwhile, a team of US Navy SEALs uncovers a coup within the Russian government: a rogue general has locked up the president (Alexander Diachenko) and begun acting in his own self-interests. The SEALs successfully snatch the president, while Glass must trust the Russian captain to help navigate the treacherous waters to get to the rendezvous point. But can the Americans and the loyal Russians trust each other long enough to prevent the bad guys from starting another World War?

Based on a novel by George Wallace and Don Keith and directed by Donovan Marsh, Hunter Killer kicks off with thick, clunky military dialogue and many cookie-cutter scenes, especially the ones that establish Butler as a rebellious outsider (he never went to Annapolis, he's first seen hunting with a bow-and-arrow, etc.). Actors like Common and Gary Oldman appear uncomfortable at best, and it looks for a while as if Butler forced everyone at gunpoint to help make this movie.

But, surprisingly, it eventually turns into a multi-character piece, with many moving parts; Butler is, happily, not the center of everything. The story allows Marsh to logically cut back and forth to several locations, and the breaks effectively boost the storytelling style; it builds suspense. Best of all, the movie becomes less focused on specific military-type relationships and concentrates instead on simpler, more universal bonds of loyalty and teamwork. Characters seem to behave in the best interests of their comrades, rather than at the service of the plot.

Additionally, the wonderful Linda Cardellini has virtually the only female role, looking tense inside a situation room, and she seems to relish the opportunity. Yet Hunter Killer is also overrun with gunfire and explosions; it's hardly a classic, but it should satisfy a reasonable number of customers.

Lionsgate's Blu-ray release features very strong picture and sound (both Dolby Atmos and TrueHD 7.1), and optional English subtitles. It also comes with a bonus DVD and digital copy. Extras include a director's commentary track and a 25-minute behind-the-scenes featurette.

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