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Deep under the Arctic Ocean, American submarine Captain Joe Glass, portrayed by Gerard Butler, 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.

Jack English/Courtesy of VVS Films

  • Hunter Killer
  • Directed by: Donovan Marsh
  • Written by: Arne Schmidt and Jamie Moss
  • Starring: Gerard Butler, Common and Gary Oldman
  • Classification: 14A; 121 minutes

rating

As a long-time admirer of cinéma du Gerard Butler – you know, the trashy and coarse thrillers in which the Scottish actor bashes his meaty frame into everyone and everything in his way – Hunter Killer arrives with promise. Finally, someone (in this case, 26 producers!) decided to plunk Butler and a totally random set of character actors (Common! Gary Oldman! Michael Nyqvist!) inside a Hunt for Red October facsimile and let all hell break loose.

It sounds patently absurd and wholly terrible, but also just the right kind of absurd terribleness that dedicated Butler-heads could get behind. This would be our next Den of Thieves or Olympus Has Fallen – but on a submarine! At every turn, though, director Donovan Marsh manages to sand down everything that a good (read: bad) Butler film should be.

For instance, the star offers his most restrained and thus boring performance ever as Captain Joe Glass, a by-the-book navy man who also tosses out said book whenever the script requires him to do so. The side characters, including Linda Cardellini’s NSA official whose dialogue consists entirely of variations on “I’m from the NSA,” rival Glass’ dullness. The Tom Clancy-Lite plot is disposable and dated (there’s a Hillary Clinton-esque president, which was hopeful-thinking when the film was shot in the summer of 2016). And the action, when it does arrive, is quiet enough to send the most insomnia-plagued of audiences to sleep.

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There's very mild fun to be had in figuring out just how much time Gary Oldman spent on set (best guess: three hours), and gawking at all the submarine-porn Donovan chose to include during the end credits (literally, it's just four minutes' worth of submarines emerging and submerging).

In the meantime, me and my fellow Butler aficionados will patiently wait for Den of Thieves 2, which I’m delighted to report is a very real thing.

Hunter Killer opens Oct. 26.

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