America is under terrorist attack – God bless America. The White House comes under the control of a nasty bunch of North Koreans in a serviceable but gratingly predictable action yarn.
There was a point whilst watching this White-House-Under-Siege-By-Terrorists actioner when I was praying – legs, fingers and everything else crossed – for one of the characters not to utter the line: ‘The United States of America does not negotiate with terrorists.’ And you know what? Predictably, someone did.
And it’s this kind of macho, gung-ho, not-gonna-take-any-crap, American jingoistic predictability that pervades practically every frame of Olympus Has Fallen, the latest directorial effort from Training Day director Antoine Fuqua.
But despite its endless Yankee proselytising this is still an enjoyable action romp. In fact, it’s the kind of film you could have imagined Jean Claude Van Damme, Chuck Norris or Steven Segal to have made in the early nineties, with its one-man-on-a-mission-to-beat-the-bad-guys theme practically the staple of their muscle-bound output before they started growing pony tails or starring in beer commercials.
The one man on a mission here is Gerard Butler, ex-bodyguard of the President who’s still haunted by the fact he couldn’t save the First Lady’s life during a tragic car accident. It’s a character we’ve seen before many times and it follows the same inevitable story arc from regret to personal redemption by performing one (or rather in this case, hundreds) of heroic, and rather violent, deeds.
When the White House is attacked by an army of angry Koreans, Butler dodges the bullets and slaughter to infiltrate 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue to rescue the Prez, his son, and prevent the terrorists from activating the country’s nuclear weapons.
The attack on the White House is impressively staged in an assault that goes on for the best part of half an hour. It’s brutal, it’s bloody, it’s violent, and it’s well staged and suitably tense.
From the minute the outside carnage is over and Butler’s inside the White House, however, Olympus Has Fallen becomes Die Hard in the White House or Under Siege Without The Boat or Air Force One Without The Plane.
He prowls the cavernous corridors, swiftly despatching any terrorists that cross his path with a gleefully violent snapping of necks, stabbing of throats and knifings to the head. It’s often a visceral and bloodthirsty film, and Rick Yune is sufficiently treacherous and vicious as the kingpin North Korean not averse to administering a thorough beating even to a woman hostage.
Morgan Freeman adds his usual air of dignified gravitas to his scenes as the stand-in Prez, although the other subsidiary White House characters are thinly sketched and tick all the boxes for delivering the standard, clichéd ‘if anyone beat these terrorists, he can’ schtick. In fact the entire film is an action flick box ticking exercise. There’s even the de regeur inside man who turns out to be a traitor.
Some of the special effects, particularly during initial airborne attack, are less than polished (the production was rushed for a release date before Roland Emmerich’s similarly-themed flick, White House Down, and it shows).
But despite all its flaws, it has enough cheesy one-liners, dramatic flourishes, adrenaline-pumping moments and flag-waving (or vomit-inducing, depending on your viewpoint) Americanism to make it a less than solid but more than enjoyable few hours. Even if it does feel as though it was made a few decades ago.
Verdict:Occasionally spectacular in its action sequences but less than spectacular in its originality, it’s fun popcorn fodder with an extra layer of cheese that’ll either have you rooting for the hero or running for the exit.