In the Dark:This submarine thriller attempts to stay above water

In the Dark:This submarine thriller  attempts to stay above water

Hunter Killer

Starring: Gerard Butler

Directed by: Donovan Marsh

Rated: PG-13

 

While this is not in the same league as ‘Das Boot” or “Crimson Tide,” it’s a serviceable cat and mouse thriller set in those claustrophobic tubes called submarines. Gerard Butler continues to make a name for himself as a kind of “B movie” action hero. He has yet to really distinguish himself in rom-coms or action pictures, but it’s a crowded field of actors, and this is a solid part for him as a submarine captain caught up in an international crisis.

The way the world is turning right now this story could be ripped from the headlines. It involves the disappearance of two subs simultaneously—one American and one Russian ship. Both countries go to high alert without any real knowledge of what happened, but blaming the other.

New to his leadership position, Captain Joe Glass (Butler) is called in the take over the command of the USS Arkansas—a class of sub called a hunter killer. His mission is to proceed to the site where communication was lost with the other sub and determine what happened. What he finds are two disabled submarines apparently blown up.

The intrigue thickens when the Arkansas takes on several survivors from the Russian sub, including its captain (Michael Nykqvist). While questions of loyalty to country, sabotage, and trustworthiness linger in the stale air of the sub’s tight enclosures, the two captains must navigate treacherous waters to prevent a Russian coup involving the Minister of Defense and the Russian president that is brewing. Just as an aside: Have you ever noticed that the Russian bad guys always look pasty and beady-eyed, like they’ve been pounding back Stoli while they’re plotting to take over the world.

Meanwhile a Navy Seal team has been dropped into Russia on a recon mission to try and figure out what’s going on. Part two of Glass’s directive is to pick them up and get them out, but of course there are life-threatening glitches that make this almost impossible.

The way this plays out is pretty predictable right down to the infighting within the Joint Chiefs of Staff back in Washington. The war hawk being Commander Charles Dunnigan (a highly emotive Gary Oldman) and the peace seeker, Dunnigan’s underling, played by Common, who advocates for not blowing up Russia over a sunk sub before all the facts are in.

This is distinguished by some impressive special effects, most of them underwater, but the script is full of trite dialog that does a disservice to the characters. What’s missing is that snap and crackle found in the exchanges between Gene Hackman and Denzel Washington in one of the best submarine action movies I’ve seen, “Crimson Tide.”

That said, this is still entertaining enough to swim along with.

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