Movie Review: “Operation Seawolf” pits Dolph against Grillo in a cut-rate WWII U-Boat thriller

Digital animation has progressed far enough that we can safely assume we’re going to get reasonably convincing naval combat footage on screen, be it ancient Greek (“300: Rise of an Empire”) or World War II (“Midway,” “Greyhound”).

So that’s not a significant worry of “Operation Seawolf,” an ahistorical thriller about a late WWII effort to launch V-1 buzz bombs from U-Boats against the American coast. The worries are a screenplay that is stale cheese, situations that are worn-out tropes and performances that range from perfunctory to eye-rolling.

It’s a B-movie WWII actioner that sinks into C-movie more often than you’d like.

Dolph Lundgren plays a drunken, veteran U-Boat skipper given a boat and leadership of a pack aiming to sink ships on the way to surfacing off New York and buzz-bombing it, a last stab of vengeance in the last days of the war.

“I will not disappoint you. Do not disappoint me!”

There’s strife on the boat — a second officer (Andrew Stecker) who was sure this would be his command — and careless risks.

“VEre iss de captain?” “Passed-out again.”

Facing off with them an Atlantic Fleet desk jockey (the ever-unshaved Frank Grillo) who has the decoded information of the V-1 attack and is scrambling to track down and sink the Germans.

“Checkmate! CHECKMATE!”

The action beats are passable, but every second in between them is just a groaner — clumsy acting, corny dialogue.

“Did ve ever haff a chance to vin?” “No.”

Then there’s our introduction to Captain Kessler (Lundgren), a long LONG scene of Lundgren staggering around a Norwegian hotel room (in a late April snowstorm), drunk and sharing a tender moments with a sex worker one third his age.

So let’s focus instead on two things of note here. First, we’re shown a U.S. destroyer crewed and captained (Hiram A. Murray) by African Americans. The command detail is incorrect, but it’s interesting that they put one of the two mostly-African American crewed destroyers of WWII in the movie.

And then there’s writer-director Steven Luke’s homage to 1965 WWII movie “Battle of the Bulge.” In that film, a German panzer division commander played by Robert Shaw mutters about the “boys” and cast-offs he’s being sent into battle with, and the men burst into “The Tankmen’s Song” to show their eagerness for combat.

Here, it’s the green sub crew that serenades Captain Kessler with a Nazi submariners song, almost a shot-for-shot homage to Bond-film veteran Ken Annakin’s film, without any of the pathos and “patriotic” fatalism of the original.

Aside from that, nothing much to see here that isn’t digitally animated.

Rating: unrated, violence, alcohol abuse

Cast: Dolph Lundgren, Andrew STecker, Cody Fleury, Hiram A. Murray and Frank Grillo.

Credits: Scripted and directed by Steven Luke. A Shout! Studios release.

Running time: 1:27

About Roger Moore

Movie Critic, formerly with McClatchy-Tribune News Service, Orlando Sentinel, published in Spin Magazine, The World and now published here, Orlando Magazine, Autoweek Magazine
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