By John Mulderig
NEW YORK (CNS) — Is it worrisome or reassuring that the only person standing between the world and a nuclear holocaust is Gerard Butler? Viewers of the military potboiler “Hunter Killer” (Summit) will have to decide for themselves.
Those inclined to fret, however, can at least take comfort in the fact that the film, though entertaining enough as an excuse to eat popcorn, is quite far-fetched.
Given that Butler’s crusade to save the globe, conducted in the guise of submarine Capt. Joe Glass, comes with a high quotient of both bloodletting and the kind of talk for which sailors have a proverbially bad reputation, this is not a voyage suitable for kids.
Scowling macho man Joe is put in command of the USS Arkansas and sent off to the Barents Sea to investigate a mysterious incident in which both a Russian sub and the American vessel tracking it came to grief within moments of each other. Did the Russians sink our sub as a preliminary to all-out war?
The answer turns out to be complicated since it involves Putin-like President Zakarin of Russia (Alexander Diachenko) and his not-necessarily-loyal defense secretary, Adm. Dmitri Durov (Michael Gor). So, to keep a worldwide showdown at bay, Joe will not only have to do some fancy maneuvering but will also have to think outside the box.
Mainly, that means cooperating with Capt. Andropov (Michael Nyqvist), the skipper of the stricken Russian sub who has not only survived but been rescued by the crew of the Arkansas. This apparently collaborationist plan does not sit well with Joe’s conventionally minded executive officer, Brian Edwards (Carter MacIntyre), however. He proceeds to object at every turn, thus setting up the kind of high-tension confrontations on which this sort of picture thrives.
Back on land, Joe does at least have the support of level-headed Rear Adm. John Fisk (Common) as well as that of equally sensible presidential security adviser Jayne Norquist (Linda Cardellini). Not everyone at the Pentagon is in Joe’s corner, though: Gary Oldman chews the scenery as fuming, trigger-happy Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Charles Donnegan.
To add another plot strand and vantage point on events, Fisk and Norquist dispatch a team of Navy SEALs, led by Bill Beaman (Toby Stephens), to the Kola Peninsula to see what’s going on at Russia’s naval headquarters.
Director Donovan Marsh’s screen version of George Wallace and Don Keith’s 2012 novel “Firing Point” is crowded, somewhat laborious and hard to swallow. But grown moviegoers straining to take anything of substance away from it will at least find that screenwriters Arne L. Schmidt and Jamie Moss promote the need to take chances for peace.
Yet, overall, the Arkansas, though it briefly runs silent, never really runs deep.
The film contains much violence with considerable gore, several uses of profanity, a few rough terms, frequent crude and crass language and a couple of vulgar sexual references. The Catholic News Service classification is A-III — adults. The Motion Picture Association of America rating is R — restricted. Under 17 requires accompanying parent or adult guardian.
Mulderig is on the staff of Catholic News Service.