Being that I just recently went to see the OTHER hijacked White House movie, ‘White House Down’, it’s only natural that I would follow it up with this flick. Whenever Hollywood dumps dual genre flicks with competing themes (See: Volcano vs Dantes Peak, Armageddon vs Deep Impact etc), I always get a kick out of seeing both movies as ‘back-to-back’ as I can, just for the sake of self-amusing edification. And here I went again.
While I did enjoy ‘White House Down’, my inner ‘action junkie’ had a better time with ‘Olympus Has Fallen’. As an action movie, it’s pretty brutal and exciting…far more in keeping with the flick that gave birth to this entire sub-genre of the Action Movie category: Die Hard (1988). Where ‘White House Down’ played it largely safe with it’s action and violence (with all manner of jokes and quips on hand to soften the blow), this flick goes right for the balls.
The Plot: North Korean terrorists/spies (in cahoots with select treasonous Americans) stage a devastating attack/invasion on The White House in order to secure a code system linked to the self-destruct programs in the US’ nuclear arsenal, in order to level the playing field where the North Korean military and government is concerned. In among the chaos of the day, a guilt-ridden former Secret Service agent (Gerard Butler) is switched into a very efficient and brutal version of ‘John McClane’, using his knowledge of White House security and military tactics to subvert the terrorists plan and save the day. Let the blood and bullets fly! And fly they do.
This is a ‘violent as hell’ action movie when it gets going, where the preferred method of human disposal is bullets to the head. Much bloody brain matter hits walls, ceilings and floors at high speed. Knives are another tool that are brought enthusiastically into play, with much lethality. Given the amount of ‘down n dirty’ action violence splashed across the screen, this flick has a strangely high-brow cast.
Aside from Gerard Butler (using an uncharacteristic American accent), you’ve also got Aaron Eckhart (Battle: Los Angeles) as The President, Angela Bassett (Strange Days), Morgan Freeman (Se7en), Dylan McDermott (Hamburger Hill), Cole Hauser (Pitch Black), Robert Forster (Jackie Brown), Radha Mitchell (Man on FIre) and the still gorgeous Ashley Judd (here for a short cameo). This is NOT the cast I would’ve expected for a film that features a prominent scene in which dozens of innocent bystanders and cops get violently chopped to meat by an attacking AC-130 Spectre gunship as it orbits The Capitol of The United States. Great scene, BTW. There are many scenes in this flick that stand out, some for the ferocity of the action and others for the effective air of suspense that director Antoine Fuqua (Brooklyn’s Finest) capably injects into the proceedings. There are a good number of hand-to-hand fight scenes and, like ‘White House Down’, they are handled in a way not terribly popular at The Movies these days; a way in which you can actually tell what the hell is going on as characters fly at each other with guns, knives, fists, furniture and solid busts of Abe Lincoln’s head. Some of the stunt work looked positively painful, which only adds to the aesthetic of the action.
Speaking of aesthetic, my prediction in the tail end of my ‘White House Down’ review about ‘Olympus Has Fallen’ being the mean-spirited, R-rated version was pretty much ‘spot on’. There are some scenes that would come close to getting ‘The Rob Zombie Seal of Violent Approval’, particularly the sequence in which an older female member of The Prezs staff gets mercilessly punched and kicked to a bloody pulp, in order for The Bad Guys to secure a code for their nefarious plan. There’s also the aforementioned hard-on for quick ‘bullet to the head’ executions…of both hostages and terrorist pieces of shit. It’s unsettling but as a result, you REALLY want Butler to fuck these guys up but good.
If I had to pick out some weak links, I can definitely say that a little more cash could’ve been thrown at some of the CG effects. Not all, as most of them are pretty good, but some stood out noticeably as being simply ‘not perfect’. Being that most of those shots occurred in fast-moving sequences at night, they didn’t distract TOO badly. There was also the presence of Aussie hottie Radha Mitchell as Butlers nurse wife who really didn’t serve the plot in any major capacity…except for the strangely touching ‘phone call’ conversation they have before a weary Butler stomps off to drain more terrorist blood and brain matter. The endearing quality of the dialogue and performances vindicated her addition to the story…barely.
And then there’s The Last Scene….which almost derails the entire flick. Somehow, in movies like this, it seems to have become en vogue for the revival of ‘Rah Rah America!’ slow-mo Stars n Stripes-waving bullshit. As a proud Canadian, I obviously don’t share the patriotism to THAT particular flag, and all the deception and blood it historically stands for (I’m sorry, American Readers…but it’s true). It’s weird to note the shift in sensibilities in the years since 9/11. For a good while, it was as though Hollywood, and by default the American public, accepted that MAYBE, just MAYBE, America WASN’T the greatest country on the planet (cue the audible gasp of shocked disbelief), and that waving Old Glory in everyone’s face perhaps wasn’t in good taste anymore. Basically, it seemed to me that America’s public persona had had some humility forced upon it. But now, using the idea of attacks on The Centre of The American Universe, it seems like bloated, arrogant patriotism is on the way back. Oh joy. But whatever…merely my own observation fueled by a well-read bias. Back to the show!
Olympus Has Fallen is definitely my preferred choice out of the two ‘hijacked White House’ movies, if for no other reason than it was simply a more exciting, unapologetic action movie that didn’t shy away from tension and bloodletting. If movies like ‘Die Hard’ (1988), ‘The Last Boy Scout'(1991), ‘Cliffhanger'(1993), and ‘The Rock’ (1996) (just to name a few) are your ‘bag’…then ‘Olympus Has Fallen’ will definitely work for you.