Release of a Hollywood action film in which American soldiers rescue a Russian president during a coup attempt has been mysteriously postponed in Russia and Ukraine, with reports suggesting it could be banned due to its content.
Released in the US last week, “Hunter Killer” is a thriller starring Gerard Butler as an American submarine captain who tries to prevent World War III after the Russian president is taken hostage by his rogue defence minister.
It grossed a modest $6.7 million its first weekend.
In Russia, the film was ready for release Thursday but theatres unexpectedly cancelled the screening, citing circumstances beyond their control.
Russia’s culture ministry confirmed to AFP that it had withheld a screening license for the film because the distribution company did not show confirmation that it “transferred the film for permanent storage in the Russian state film fund.”
The ministry said the only copy it received from the company in September was “of an insufficient quality”.
A report in industry outlet Film Distributor Bulletin said distributor Megogo Distribution had to warn theatres not to show the movie just hours before the premiere, due to the ministry’s unexpected stalling.
Opposition politician Dmitry Gudkov suggested that the ministry could be blocking the movie for suggesting even a fictional possibility that President Vladimir Putin could be deposed.
– ‘Aggressor state’ –
“What are these bastards from Hollywood suggesting? That someday (Defence Minister Sergei) Shoigu… comes out quietly and tops Putin? That will not happen,” he wrote on Facebook.
The movie’s troubles in Russia follow its mysterious failure to open in neighbouring Ukraine, with the distribution company telling AFP that the government is preventing the film from screening.
“(The state film committee) watched the film, it fell under some law and was banned,” said a representative of Kinomania, a Ukrainian film distributor which in August announced the premiere of “Hunter Killer” on October 25.
The representative declined to give his name, but the film had disappeared from Kinomania’s website and did not open last week as planned.
A representative of the State Film Committee, or Derzhkino, told AFP that “the decision to ban the film is currently being reviewed and will be published soon.”
Though there is no official explanation of the ban in Ukraine, reports have cited a Ukrainian law which bans films popularising a military of the “aggressor state” or “creating a positive image” of its employees.
Ukraine considers Russia an aggressor which supports an insurgency in its eastern region, where pro-Russia separatists have declared independence from Kiev.
One Ukrainian internet user also saw parallels between real life and the film, which suggests the US submarine strives to rescue a good Russian leader. “Saving Private Putin,” Roman Polyoviy wrote mockingly on distributor Kinomania’s Facebook page.