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Olympus Has Fallen
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by Peter Sobczynski

"Gerard Over (And Under) The White House"
1 stars

If you were still under the impression that Hollywood was still laboring under the aura of sensitivity towards scenes of horrific scenes of terrorism--especially those involving real-life places or political figures--in the wake of 9/11, "Olympus Has Fallen" should ruthlessly strip away your illusions, along with any desire to watch another movie or consume another meal in the immediate future. On the surface, it may look like just another "Die Hard" knockoff and to be fair, it comes closer to following that particular template than the woeful "A Good Day to Die Hard" did. However, the way that it manages this goes so far beyond the pale in its attempts to rouse viewers that I, for one, was genuinely put off by its grotesque excesses, especially since it does so in the service of a crappy action film that plays like the Chuck Norris epic "Invasion U.S.A." sans the humanity and clear-headed political rhetoric.

Following the requisite professional tragedy that is detailed in the prologue (which I would not dream of revealing except to say that when the film screened at the CPAC conference last week, it probably went over like gangbusters), former Presidential Guard Mike Banning (Gerard Butler) has been transferred to a desk job at the Treasury Department. The bright side is that when a crazed rogue Korean terrorist (Rick Yune) leads an full-out attack on the White House--a land and air siege that leaves the building and grounds littered with bodies and the president (Aaron Eckhart) and other top officials held hostage in a fortified below-ground bunker--he is in a position to tap into his inner John McClane by eliminating the terrorists one by one before the final stage of their attack can be launched. Although alternately aided and hindered by the efforts of the head of the Secret Service (Angela Bassett), the Speaker of the House-cum-acting President (Morgan Freeman), a former colleague (Dylan McDermott) and the head of the Joint Chiefs of Staff (Robert Forster), Banning proves to be more than up to the task of saving the day and the country--the kind of guy who vows to stab a bad guy to death in the head in one scene and then proceeds to do just that later on. Inevitably, it all leads up to a grand finale in which everything is pretty much settled on the basis of a fistfight between two people.

There have, of course, been plenty of movies in which the President of the United States has been the target of some diabolical plot or another--ranging from the relatively serious-minded likes of "In the Line of Fire" to nonsense like "Air Force One"--and there have also been any number of films in which the White House has been attacked or even destroyed--the sight of the White House being blown up was even the center of the ad campaign that made the sci-fi epic "Independence Day" such a massive hit back in 1996. However, in terms of both carnage and the gory detail in which it is all delivered, "Olympus Has Fallen" pretty much takes the cake and does so in the most appalling ways imaginable. During the film, we get to see such sights as a C-130 in the air over Washington D.C. taking out a couple of pursuing jets and gunning down countless people before crashing in a ball of flame, the top of the Washington Monument crashing down upon hordes of fleeing tourists, dozens of Secret Service officers slaughtered in a hail of bullets and explosions, at least half of the White House itself reduced to rubble and numerous members of the Cabinet beaten, tortured and occasionally murdered by their captors. In the dodgiest moment in a movie overflowing with them, the female Secretary of Defense (Melissa Leo) is brutally beaten before our eyes by the bad guys in order to give up information in a scene that quickly veers from the merely melodramatic to the outright sadistic. Perhaps fearing that this scene might leaving a bad taste in the mouths of any viewers not named Hailee Steinfeld or Helena Bonham Carter--especially seeing as how it doesn't lead to much of anything from a dramatic standpoint--the next time we see her, she is trading droll quips with the president despite still showing visible evidence of her savage beating.

As a film critic, I have seen pretty much every conceivable act of brutality that one could possibly imagine, ranging from ordinary shootings and stabbings to full-on human centipedings, and have also borne witness to the sight of a good number of the world's landmarks, both natural and man-made, lain to waste by everything from terrorists to aliens to a split-personality Superman. As you can probably expect, it now takes a lot for a film to get under my skin on either one of those fronts. They either have to be staged and executed so powerfully, both technically and dramatically, that I can't help but get caught up in them or they have to be done so thoughtlessly and tastelessly that they somehow manage to offend someone as jaded as I am. For a film like "Olympus Has Fallen" to succeed as anything other than as a sick joke, it has to earn the right to such emotionally charged material so that it comes across as more than red meat thrown out in a desperate attempt to get the attention of its audience. For me, it never earned the right to such imagery and as a result, sights like a corpse-strewn White House left me feeling more depressed than anything else, especially since they have been presented in the service of what is basically an empty-headed popcorn thriller.

And yet, even if I had somehow managed to put all of those unsettling thoughts out of my head and simply regard "Olympus Has Fallen" as just another shoot-em-up extravaganza, I still wouldn't be able to say many kind things about it because it is pretty much a total bust on that level as well. The screenplay is the usual conglomeration of muddled storytelling, paper-thin characters (this is the kind of film where you can guess who the traitor is even before they have been properly introduced) and dialogue that veers back and forth between tortured burst of raw exposition and insipid attempts at dry, cool wit, all spiked with enough use of the "f" word to make Tony Montana blush. (In fact, the single most memorable line of dialogue in the whole thing comes when someone actually says in all seriousness "Stand by to repel boarders!") Although director Antoine Fuqua deserves some credit for keeping things moving along and for making an unapologetically R-rated film instead of going for the more commercially viable PG-13, his efforts are not enough to help elevate the alternately tedious and tawdry proceedings and most of the key action beats are filmed so darkly that simple act of watching them becomes a challenge after a while.

The most incredible thing about "Olympus Has Fallen" is that so many talented people were somehow lured into the kind of project that could have been produced three decades ago as a cheapo bit of Cannon Pictures fodder without any noticeable changes. Look at that cast list. What could have possibly inspired the likes of Morgan Freeman, Angela Bassett, Melissa Leo and Robert Forster, all of whom have at least one Oscar win or nomination to their credit, to sign on for a film that had so little to offer them as actors. Yes, I get that this was clearly a paycheck gig for them but even by those standards, the dramatic pickings here are astonishingly slim. On the other hand, it is easy to understand why the eternally dull Gerard Butler got the lead role over pretty much any other male SAG member not named Woody Allen--he was one of the producers. To be fair, he is a little less irritating than usual here but that may be less a testament to his likability than to the high level of atrociousness that surrounds him throughout. However, even he looks at times as though he wishes he could be anywhere else, such as helping ESPN in expanding their soccer coverage. Trust me--long before the film comes to its merciful conclusion (albeit in a way that makes the Mel Gibson version of "Mr. Smith Goes to Washington" spoof on "The Simpsons" seem subtle by comparison), most of you will probably feel the same way.

link directly to this review at https://www.hollywoodbitchslap.com/review.php?movie=24479&reviewer=389
originally posted: 03/21/13 17:32:50
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User Comments

3/24/18 morris campbell entertaind DIE HARD at the white house flick 4 stars
10/23/13 Monday Morning If PS hated this film so much why did he spend so much time on this review. Movie is great! 4 stars
7/04/13 Langano Die Hard ripoff but still better than average action flick. 4 stars
6/25/13 Jesse Zuno I honestly didn't know what to expect from this film. Suprisingly good. 4 stars
4/03/13 gc Gonsalves is way off...this was a really good action movie 5 stars
3/28/13 mr.mike Good. Damn good. 4 stars
3/24/13 action movie fan very good 1st hour slightly routine second half but good action film with tough shootouts 4 stars
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  22-Mar-2013 (R)
  DVD: 13-Aug-2013


  DVD: 13-Aug-2013

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