'Hunter Killer' Gets License for Russia Release

Jack English/Lionsgate
'Hunter Killer'

The thriller starring Gerard Butler and Gary Oldman is due to premiere Thursday in Moscow after a week's delay.

Hunter Killer, a Hollywood thriller in which U.S. troops rescue an embattled Russian president, has been given an exhibition license in Russia after it was mysteriously pulled from theaters in the country last week.

The film, which stars Gerard Butler as a U.S. Navy submarine captain who tries to prevent World War III after the Russian president is taken hostage by his defense minister during a Kremlin coup, will be released Thursday, a week after it was originally due to have its Russian premiere.

Russia's culture minister Vladimir Medinsky confirmed the film would be granted a license, but criticized the movie.

"This is a banal, boring and ultimately stupid film," Medinsky is quoted as saying, according to Russian media. "If someone goes to see it, they will only have my sympathy for two wasted hours."

Megogo Distribution, the film's distributor, confirmed that it had received a license. Hunter Killer is due to open Thursday night on 70 screens in Moscow and more locations across Russia, though the nationwide figure is not available.

The pic, which also stars Gary Oldman, was pulled hours before its planned Russian premiere last week when the ministry of culture told the distributor that it had failed to show it had transferred a copy of the film "for permanent storage at the Russian state film fund."

Others, including opposition politicians and social media commentators, suggested officials were seeking to block the movie for depicting a fictional scenario in which the Kremlin chief is deposed.

Popular independent online magazine Snob.ru wrote: "There must be fears that the movie could push viewers to the thought that the president could, in principle, be ousted, and the sky won't fall."

Russian authorities have a track record of preventing the release of films deemed offensive. Earlier this year, the release of Armando Iannucci's satire The Death of Stalin was stopped for allegedly poking fun at the Soviet past.

Hunter Killer has also faced problems in neighboring Ukraine, which has had sour relations with Russia since Moscow annexed Crimea in 2014. Due for a release there on Oct. 25, the pic also failed to get a distribution license under a local law banning films depicting "the military power of Russia."