Just from that one sentence, I’m sure you can figure out what this movie is . . .yep, Die Hard in the White House. That is pretty much what you get. Rather than Bruce Willis with his wit and charm, you get Gerard Butler (300, Law Abiding Citizen) and his . . . um . . .his . . .you get Gerard Butler!
Directed by Antoine Fuqua (Training Day, King Arthur), Olympus Has Fallen is a pretty solid piece of action filmmaking. While it breaks no new ground in anything it does, it does provide some solid set pieces, a chance for our disgraced hero to save the day, and some terribly cheesy one liners. There is one scene in particular where I literally burst out laughing and I don’t think I was supposed to. Well, no one else in the theater did. It was so cheesy and contrived and totally fit with the film but was so off the wall that I had to laugh. When Secretary of Defense Ruth McMillan (Melissa Leo) is being dragged out of the room to be executed, after being brutally beaten, mind you, she begins singing the National Anthem. Oh, it was such a terrible scene. But so funny. It is scenes like this that make this film. There is no question this a patriotic film and almost every shot in the film beats that message home. If you can overlook some of the typical patriotic film conventions, though, what you find is a rather enjoyable ‘one man saves the day’ action film.
After failing to save the President’s wife (Ashley Judd) in a freak car accident, Mike Banning is relocated to the treasury department. He is a tortured man and continues to relive the events of that fateful night, even though he managed to save President Asher. When the North Koreans attack and take over the White House, cutting down all of the Secret Service agents like they were untrained rabbits with guns, Mike manages to get inside the White House. He establishes a connection with Allan Trumbull (Morgan Freeman), Speaker of the House and acting President. From there, he attempts to use his knowledge of the grounds to save the President and the President’s son who managed to evade capture.
See? Die Hard in the White House. Honestly, this film is the closest Die Hard knock off I have ever seen. This is even more Die Hard than Live Free or Die Hard and A Good Day to Die Hard. When this releases on Blu-Ray, I might actually have to sit down and compare the two films and their striking similarities. The parallels are unmistakable, especially if you have recently watched Die Hard, which I have.
While I wouldn’t actually say that Gerard Butler gives another star making performance here (I mean, after Dracula 2000, he doesn’t need another one, right?), but he does a serviceable (get it?) job as a former Army Ranger cum disgraced ex-Secret Service agent. He does the tortured aspect well, and when his Ranger training kicks in he is pretty bad-ass. Must see scene of the film? When he interrogates two insurgents for information. It was not at all what you expect and really shows how far this man is willing to go to save the President and do his duty.
This film is also an R rated film, which means that there is some gore present, especially with all the bullets flying around. While there is nothing to the extent of The Expendables 2 and that films exploding bodies, this film doesn’t shy away from the blood. It also doesn’t drench you in it. Watching the film, I found myself wondering whether they were attempting to get a PG-13 rating and just couldn’t manage it. Other than a bit of blood and a few choice f-bombs, the film could have easily been trimmed a bit to allow for the lower rating. The reason I discuss this is because it actually makes the film a bit of a crap-shoot. At times, you get a hard R rated feature and other times the film is a little weaker. This difference in tone is easily noticed and does the film a disservice. It almost throws you out of the film and that is never a good sign.
While I enjoyed the film, there were too many problems for me to give it a high rating. While there were no glaring errors, and the people in the film were somewhat intelligent, the differences in tone and Gerard Butler’s by the numbers performance kind of hold the film back. Make no mistake, I like Gerard Butler, I just don’t think he was give much to work with other than ‘You will be John McClane in the White House. Oh, and you were a Secret Service Agent and an ex-Army Ranger’.
If you are looking for a decent action film in the vein (clone) of Die Hard, you can’t really go wrong. It is enjoyable and action packed. Just don’t expect the same quality as Die Hard.
**1/2 out of ****
- Olympus Has Fallen featurette (bizzammovienews.com)