Based on a novel by George Wallace and Don Keith, Hunter Killer follows submarine captain Joe Glass (Gerard Butler) as he reluctantly teams up with an enemy officer (Michael Nyqvist’s Andropov) to rescue the Russian president (Alexander Diachenko’s Zakarin) from kidnappers. It’s clear immediately that the biggest impediment to Hunter Killer‘s success is its vast assortment of hopelessly generic characters, as scripters Arne Schmidt and Jamie Moss populate the proceedings with protagonists (and antagonists) that seem to have emerged directly from a template for movies of this ilk. (It’s especially disappointing given the raft of talented performers within the cast, including Gary Oldman, Common, Linda Cardellini, and Caroline Goodall.) The picture’s less-than-engrossing vibe is exacerbated by an overlong running time and a continuing emphasis on tedious, uninvolving subplots (eg the ongoing exploits of several soldiers on the ground), and it doesn’t help, either, that much of Hunter Killer‘s first half is spent establishing the cookie-cutter characters and laying the groundwork for an admittedly action-packed second half (which, by the time it arrives, is hardly able to make the visceral impact director Donovan Marsh is striving for). And although the film does contain a very small handful of effective sequences (eg Glass and company must remain whisper quiet to avoid detection), Hunter Killer predominantly comes off as an aggressively by-the-numbers actioner that squanders a talented roster of actors and seemingly can’t-miss setup.
* out of ****