Hunter Killer (film)
Theatrical release poster
|Directed by||Donovan Marsh|
|Based on||Firing Point|
by Don Keith & George Wallace
|Music by||Trevor Morris|
|Edited by||Michael J. Duthie|
|Box office||$31.7 million|
Hunter Killer is a 2018 American action thriller film directed by Donovan Marsh, written by Arne Schmidt and Jamie Moss, and based on the 2012 novel Firing Point by Don Keith and George Wallace. The film stars Gerard Butler, Gary Oldman, Michael Nyqvist (in one of his final film roles), Common, Linda Cardellini and Toby Stephens, and follows a submarine crew and a group of Navy SEALS who rescue the captured Russian President from a coup.
Hunter Killer was released in the United States on October 26, 2018, by Summit Entertainment. A box-office flop, the film received mixed reviews from critics, who saw it as "an undemanding, by-the-numbers actioner".
The U.S. Los Angeles class submarine USS Tampa Bay vanishes while shadowing the Russian Akula-class submarine Konek in the Arctic. Rear Admiral John Fisk (Common) sends the Virginia-class submarine USS Arkansas, under the command of newly-promoted and unorthodox Commander Joe Glass (Gerard Butler) to investigate.
At the same time, a Navy SEAL team under the command of Lieutenant Bill Beaman (Toby Stephens) is sent in to discreetly observe the Russian naval base in Polyarny, Murmansk Oblast, but their mission is swiftly complicated when Martinelli (Zane Holtz), the team's new designated marksman recruit, is rendered injured during the HALO drop. When they arrive at the naval base, they witness defense minister, Admiral of the Fleet Dmitriy Durov (Mikhail Gorevoy), conducting a coup d'état and taking Russian President Nikolai Zakarin (Alexander Dyachenko) prisoner, and swiftly realize that Durov intends to trigger a war. Their location almost discovered by the Russians during a radio intercept check, the SEALS manage to hide away undetected. Martinelli is injured in the leg by gunfire from a Russian officer who fired stray bullets into their hiding location forcing the team to leave him behind.
Meanwhile, Arkansas discovers the destroyed Tampa Bay, and also finds the sunken Russian submarine Konek damaged in a manner that suggests internal sabotage rather than external attack. They are attacked by another Russian Akula submarine, Volkov, that has been hiding under an iceberg, but Glass is able to destroy the ambusher and rescue Russian survivors from Konek, including its commanding officer, Captain 2nd rank Sergei Andropov (Michael Nyqvist).
Back at base, the U.S. government learns about the coup. Admiral Charles Donnegan (Gary Oldman) recommends preparing for war, while Fisk suggests that Arkansas be sent to rendezvous with Beaman's team after they have rescued Zakarin. Glass manages to convince the reluctant Andropov to help, and with Andropov's knowledge of the minefield around the base, Glass navigates Arkansas near the base undetected. Meanwhile, Beaman's team, with the help of Russian Presidential Security Service Agent Oleg (Yuri Kolokolnikov), who, the SEAL team found by the shoreline of the base wounded after being shot earlier by Durov's men when he tried to stop Durov from holding Zarakin hostage and executing his fellow agents and throwing him and their bodies in the water, they patched his wound, infiltrate the base and succeed in retrieving President Zakarin, but lose two teammates, Devin Hall (Michael Trucco) and Matt Johnstone (Ryan McPartlin), in the process. Oleg keeps the renegade Russian military at bay giving the Beaman and Zakarin a chance to escape. Oleg is mortally shot multiple times by the Durov's soldiers but he sacrificed himself by using hand grenades and mocks the soldiers by having the pulled off safety pins around his middle fingers and flips them off. He is killed in the explosion and takes a few soldiers with him. Beaman delivers the injured president to Arkansas's deep-submergence rescue vehicle, then goes back alone for Martinelli saving him from Russian soldiers about to execute him during a capture.
As U.S. and Russian fleets face off for battle, Arkansas sustains further damage when they are attacked by Andropov's old ship—a heavily armed destroyer now commanded by Captain Vlade Sutrev (Ilia Volok), a member of Durov's conspiracy—but Andropov is able to communicate a message affirming that President Zakarin is aboard the submarine. When Durov orders his forces at the base to fire missiles at the surfaced Arkansas, Glass refuses to take action, recognizing that firing back at the Russians could start the war he is trying to stop. In the last seconds, Andropov's old crew mates defy orders and destroy the incoming missiles with the close-in weapon system before they can strike Arkansas, and subsequently destroy Durov's naval base headquarters with their missiles. With the war averted, Glass docks Arkansas to the Russian naval base to return Zakarin and Andropov's surviving crew to their country. Glass and Andropov bid farewell and confirm their respect for each other. Beaman returns with an injured Martinelli, and Arkansas's crew travels back to the U.S.
- Gerard Butler as Commander Joe Glass, commanding officer of USS Arkansas
- Gary Oldman as Admiral Charles Donnegan, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff
- Common as Rear Admiral John Fisk, United States Navy
- Michael Nyqvist as Captain 2nd Rank Sergei Andropov, commanding officer of the RFS Konek
- Linda Cardellini as Jayne Norquist, National Security Agency senior analyst
- David Gyasi as Wallach, Chief of the Boat of USS Arkansas
- Gabriel Chavarria as Chief Petty Officer Jimenez, DSRV pilot on USS Arkansas
- Christopher Goh as Lieutenant Park, Submarine Navigator on the USS Arkansas who can also speak Russian
- Ryan McPartlin as Matt Johnstone, U.S. Navy SEAL and Team Medic
- Carter MacIntyre as Lieutenant Commander Brian Edwards, Executive Officer of the USS Arkansas
- Zane Holtz as Paul Martinelli, U.S. Navy SEAL
- Taylor John Smith as Petty Officer First Class Belford, Sonar Operator on USS Arkansas
- Michael Trucco as Devin Hall, U.S. Navy SEAL
- Mikhail Gorevoy as Admiral of the fleet Dmitriy Durov, Russian Minister of Defence
- Alexander Diachenko as Nikolai Zakarin, President of Russia
- Igor Jijikine as Lieutenant Tretiak, Russian Special Forces
- Yuri Kolokolnikov as Agent Oleg, Russian Presidential Security Service
- Ilia Volok as Captain Vlade Sutrev, commanding officer of the RFS Yevchenko
- Caroline Goodall as Ilene Dover, President of the United States
- Toby Stephens as Lieutenant Bill Beaman, U.S. Navy SEAL
- Atanas Srebrev as Russian Lt. Commander (uncredited)
- Sarah Middleton as Petty Officer First Class Liddy, Communication Operator on USS Arkansas
On November 12, 2015, it was announced that a deal between producers of the film had been made, that Relativity, Neal H. Moritz, and Toby Jaffe's Original Film would now produce the film along with Millennium Films, which would also co-finance and distribute. On March 3, 2016, it was announced that Donovan Marsh would direct the film and Gerard Butler and Gary Oldman would star, with Original Film's Neal H. Moritz and Toby Jaffe producing the film along with Butler, Tooley Productions' Tucker Tooley, Alan Siegel, and Millennium's Mark Gill, John Thompson, Matt O'Toole and Les Weldon. On June 23, 2016, Taylor John Smith was cast in the film to play a sonar man on the sub. On July 6, 2016, Gabriel Chavarria joined the film to play a Navy SEAL aboard the U.S. submarine, next day, Zane Holtz also joined the film to play "Martinelli," a brave and skilled member of the elite unit. On July 13, 2016, Michael Trucco and Ryan McPartlin also came aboard to play a weapons specialist Devin Hall, and an ex-SEAL and CIA medic Matt Johnstone, respectively. On July 19, 2016, Michael Nyqvist was added to the cast to play Captain Sergei Andropov. On July 21, 2016, David Gyasi joined the film to play the Chief of the Boat of the submarine USS Omaha, with Toby Stephens cast to play Lt. Beaman, head of the black ops squad. On August 4, 2016, Linda Cardellini joined the cast.
Principal photography on the film began on July 25, 2016, in London, and in Bulgaria. Interior sets of a Virginia-class Hunter Killer submarine were built at Ealing Studios, using blueprints approved by the U.S. Navy, with the spaces expanded slightly to allow freer camera movement. The sets were mounted on a gimbal to simulate the movement of the sea. Ealing also hosted a Pentagon set from where U.S. military personnel track the submarine action.
An exterior set of the main Hunter Killer submarine was built in Pinewood Studios’ 806,000-gallon exterior water tank, while underwater scenes were shot using a separate water tank at Warner Bros. Studios, Leavesden, also just outside London. Interiors of the Russian base were built as sets at Nu Boyana Film Studios in Bulgarian capital, Sofia.
The film was released in the United States on October 26, 2018, by Lionsgate through the Summit Premiere label. It was released in several territories, including the United Kingdom, the week before on October 19, 2018.
In Ukraine, the film was scheduled to premiere on October 25, but the Ukraine Ministry of Culture denied it an exhibition license based on a 2012 law on cinematography that banned "the distribution and screening of films, the goal of which is to popularise the bodies of an aggressor state and/or Soviet state security organs". According to a representative of the Ukrainian State Film Agency (Derzhkino), screening the film would be illegal because it contains a "positive image of the Russian president and admiral of the Russian army". Ukrainian-Russian relations have deteriorated since the 2014 Russian annexation of Crimea.
In Russia, the film was scheduled to premiere on November 1, but the film failed to obtain an exhibition license from the culture ministry. The ministry stated that the copy of the movie submitted by the distributor for review was of poor quality and the replacement was submitted too late for the ministry to review it in time.
In the United States and Canada, Hunter Killer was released alongside Indivisible and Johnny English Strikes Again, and was projected to gross $5–9 million from 2,720 theaters in its opening weekend. The film made $2.6 million on its first day, including $420,000 from Thursday night previews. It went on to debut to $6.7 million, finishing fifth at the box office and marking the worst debut for Butler since Playing for Keeps ($5.8 million) in 2012. The film made $3.5 million in its second weekend, falling to ninth.
On Rotten Tomatoes, the film has an approval rating of 36% based on 106 reviews, with an average score of 4.73/10. The website's critical consensus reads, "Much like the submarine in its story, Hunter Killer cruises the murky action depths, following a perfunctory course into territory that's been charted many times before." On Metacritic, the film has a weighted average score of 43 out of 100, based on 28 critics, indicating "mixed or average reviews". Audiences polled by CinemaScore gave the film an average grade of "A–" on an A+ to F scale, while PostTrak reported filmgoers gave it 4 out of 5 stars.
Bilge Ebiri of Vulture.com wrote: "Hunter Killer won’t win any awards for originality, but it may win a couple for the brazenness with which it stacks clichés upon clichés. Basically, it’s "Crimson Tide" meets "Lone Survivor" meets "Under Siege" meets a Russian variation on "Olympus Has Fallen," with a bit of "Geostorm" thrown in. At least three of those movies are pretty good, so the overall math works in the film’s favor." Norman Wilner of Toronto's Now accused Marsh for ripping off John McTiernan's The Hunt For Red October and stated that "The constant agitation and bone-deep respect for all things military is straight out of Clancy’s playbook, but there’s no Jack Ryan figure to humanize it all."
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