Judging by his previous films as a director, I think it’s safe to say that Steven Luke is a fan of war movies. Having worked as an actor, Luke made his directorial debut with Battle of the Bulge (2018), which focused on WW2. Since then his subsequent films have all been based around this time period.
His directorial efforts so far are quite similar, with then featuring former A listers like Tom Berenger and Billy Zane, actors whose best roles may be behind them but can still be relied on to bring the goods. However, no matter the quality of some of the cast, Luke’s films have been seriously hamstrung by their clear lack of budget making them pale in comparison to other more famous war films.
Even with this in mind, I was still looking forward to his most recent WW2 adventure, Operation Seawolf. This was primarily as it stars action legend Dolph Lundgren in a leading role, with him playing a role somewhat different from his usual action hero. Additionally his co-star is fan favorite Frank Grillo who hasn’t had a film out in at least a fortnight.
Taking place during the final days of WW2, Germany is desperate to turn the tides of war, grasping at any possible solution. Gathering together their remaining U-Boats, the German Army comes up with a last ditch attempt to attack the United States, with the mission being called Operation Seawolf.
To carry out this mission, the Germans put war veteran Captain Hans Kessler (Dolph Lundgren) in charge, with Kessler willing to do whatever it takes to complete his mission. Meanwhile U.S. Commander Race Ingram (Frank Grillo) tries to put a stop to Kessler before he reaches his destination.
I wish I could say that Operation Seawolf is a massive improvement on Luke’s previous films as a director, but it has many of the same issues. Once again it is clear that Luke’s film was made with limited resources. However, the production values are slightly improved from the likes of Battle of the Bulge, with the locations, costumes and sets at least looking somewhat authentic. Of course, I am no historian, they could be completely wrong, but they seemed okay to this uneducated fool. One thing that didn’t ring true was some of the haircuts, with Grillo sporting his usual slicked backed hair and stubble, which seemed out of place for the time period.
There is a fair amount of CGI used throughout the film, which is never normally a good thing in a DTV movie. Surprisingly the effects aren’t terrible. Sure, they do have a slight animated/cartoonish quality about them but they are decent considering how small the special effects budget would have been.
The majority of the film takes place on board the sub, with it being filled with the expected archetypes of the genre, with their being the expected deceitful and cowardly characters amongst the crew that will hopefully create some tension later alongside the expected submarine battles.
Sadly this tension never really materializes. On occasion, Luke appears to be building the appropriate tension, with the U Boat sneaking past its American opponents. But these scenes are short lived and don’t have the needed outcome to create an emotional response amongst its audience.
With there being dissension in the ranks, I did expect there to be some gunplay or hand to hand combat, but Operation Seawolf has a low action quotient considering it stars two actors best known for action movies.
Considering how he is placed in the credits, suggesting that he may be a guest star, Lundgren is clearly the lead. As mentioned, there isn’t really much in the way of action for him to take part in, with his role being mostly dramatic. Lundgren does well, with his Captain Kessler being seriously worn down by life. Disgusted by the Nazi regime, Kessler fights for his country, not for Hitler. With a tragic past, Kessler knows that this will probably be his final mission, but wants to die with honor.
Lundgren’s accent does slip now and again, but for the most part it’s fine. Even so, Lundgren fans will probably not care as he gives one of his better performances of late. Unfortunately it is in a film that is beneath his talents, with Lundgren being the only real draw the film has. He had previously worked with director Steven Luke on the actioner War Pigs (2015), which Luke both produced and starred in. While it is in no way a classic, War Pigs is an enjoyable little actioner that has Lundgren on good ass kicking form.
The remainder of the supporting cast don’t leave much of an impression. Andrew Stecker does slightly stand out as the only other member of Kessler’s crew that is given something of a back story. Stecker is a Steven Luke regular, having featured in all of the films Luke has directed so far.
Co-star Hiram A. Murray has also worked with Luke previously, starring in the earlier The Great War (2019). For some reason, which I assume was contractual, Murray’s name appears first in the opening credits but this has nothing to do with his screen time, with him only appearing in a handful of scenes with him probably having around 5 to 7 minutes on screen. To be honest, he could probably have been removed from the film and it wouldn’t have made much of a difference.
Frank Grillo is given slightly more screen time as Commander Ingram, barking orders back at base in the hopes of putting a stop to Kessler’s mission. Grillo was clearly cast just to give the film a bit more star power to sell it to audiences. He has certainly made worse films but this is clearly a quick paycheck for him.
Operation Seawolf is a hard film to recommend. If you are a fan of Dolph Lundgren you may want to check it out as he gives a good performance that at least makes the film worth your time. War movie fans may also want to give it a go, but they should lower any expectations they may have.
Even though I was disappointed by Operation Seawolf, I am still looking forward to Steven Luke’s next WW2 adventure, Come Out Fighting, which shares many of the same cast including Lundgren, who this time is accompanied by another martial arts legend, Michael Jai White. Here’s hoping that because this film takes place on dry land that there may be more in the way of action.
Plot: 2/5 Acting: 2.5/5 Action: 1.5/5 Overall: 2/5