Ever since The Expendables, studios producing action movies have gotten caught in a time warp. All of the realist and socially conscious baggage brought to the genre by the deserved success of the Bourne series has been wiped clean and the genre has been slowly reverting back to stupidity as if Sly Stallone shoved a crayon back into the Homer’s brain of Hollywood.
With the release of Olympus Has Fallen we’re officially back into the “Die Hard On A…” screenwriting school that produced the likes of Under Siege an The Rock. More specifically, the studios have finally gone and made the “Die Hard in the White House” movie that we should have expected from Jerry Bruckheimer and Don Simpson circa 1997. In fact, the studios have gone ahead and made two of them with the similarly titled Olympus Has Fallen and White House Down. This week we’re all lucky enough to be treated to the former of those two movies and the results are absolutely ludicrous and idiotic. Thankfully, the flick is ludicrous and idiotic in just the right way.
Gerard Butler stars as the president’s (Aaron Eckhart) former bodyguard who was once vaguely responsible for the accidental death of the first lady and is desperate for a chance at redemption while working in a much less high pressure Washington security gig. Fortunately, good ol’ Gerard gets his chance when a group of radical North Korean terrorists suddenly invade the White House. They lock up the prez and his top advisors in an underground White House bunker, destroy the Washington monument and kill everyone in the White House who won’t help their blackmail game…well, everyone except for Butler of course. Big mistake. Morgan Freeman assumes the president’s power as the highest ranking Washington hotshot still alive/not taken hostage. The terrorists want the US to pull out the military and plan to torture the president until they get the current nuclear launch codes. It seems like the start of WW until Gerry gets in touch with Freeman and co. and turns into a one man army out to save the US. He’s good at killing, plus he has machine guns and patriotism on his side. Hey, terrorists! Get ready to be kicked right in your butt…ler.
The studios have finally gone and made the “Die Hard in the White House” movie that we should have expected from Jerry Bruckheimer and Don Simpson circa 1997.
So, as you may have worked out by now, Olympus Has Fallen requires the intelligence of test tube brainstem and the attention span of an ADD gnat to follow. It’s silly, preposterous, violet, swear-filled, dumb, and filled with almost offensive levels of blind nationalism and that’s exactly what makes it awesome. Watching Olympus Has Fallen is like stepping back in time. Monuments are blown to bits like September 11
never happened, terrorists are played as comic book villains, and North Koreans are treated with the same aggressive xenophobia that Russians were offered during the cold war. Most rational, intelligent viewers will dismiss it all as Hollywood fantasy trash. They aren’t wrong, but anyone who loves laughing their way through a garbage action movie will find themselves having a hell of a good time. Bad guys are beaten to death with a brass bust of Lincoln. Flags are waved almost as much literally as they are figuratively. And then just when it seems like the movie might get vaguely political when a the terrorists’ secret man-inside offers an explanation of betrayal, he yells, “Why? Because of globalization and fucking Wall Street.” That’s the character’s entire motivation. So much for political discourse.
Every performance in the movie is pitched to screeching insanity (except of course for Freeman, whose docile tones almost make his expositional monologues sound believable…almost). Overacting and underdeveloped writing clash to make a perfect accidental comedy stew and any time that combo threatens to become boring, something blows up real good to reclaim your attention. The only bummer is that directorial duties were handed off to Antoine Fuqua who shoots the movie through a dull combo of shakeycam and CGI rather than the equally over-the-top hyper-stylized cinematography that something this silly deserves. Well, I shouldn’t say that’s the only problem. The movie is full of them: the plot doesn’t make much sense, there’s not a single credible performance, the dialogue sounds like it was written on a napkin moments before shooting, Butler accent seems to change with almost ever syllable, etc. If you don’t enjoy giggling at movies like Cobra or anything with Jean Claude Van Damme, you’ll consider Olympus Has Fallen to be total garbage. You’d be right as well. However, for trash lovers who enjoy watching movies through eye-rolls, sarcastic commentary, and bursts of unintentional laughter, you just found yourself a new drunken Saturday delight. Not all action movies have to be thoughtful and carefully conceived. They just have to be entertaining, regardless of whether or not they please audiences in the way that was intended. For the right set of eyes, Olympus Has Fallen is a campy delight and there’s nothing wrong with that. Unless you only like good movies of course (in which case I wish you luck because Hollywood doesn’t make many of those).