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Olympus Has Fallen Review: Die Hard in the White House

The oddly hilarious new action thriller Olympus Has Fallen has and will continue to earn comparisons to Die Hard. Such comparisons are understandable—the two films share a structure and several character archetypes. And while Olympus Has Fallen certainly isn't as bad as this year's actual Die Hard movie—A Good Day to Die Hard—comparisons to John McTiernan's action classic are a tad insulting. But if we're going ahead with such a comparison, the Olympus Has Fallen equivalent of Nakatomi Plaza is the White House. Its John McClane is a Secret Service agent by the name of Mike Banning (Gerard Butler). Aaron Eckhart is the young, charismatic president (and this film's version of Holly McClane), while Morgan Freeman takes on the important role of Superman's helper—this film's Sgt. Al Powell; He's the U.S. Speaker of the House. Once you know the characters and how the relate to one another, there's not much to do but sit back and enjoy (or not enjoy) the ridiculousness. You see North Korean terrorists (they're always North Koreans nowadays, aren't they?) lay siege to 1600 Pennsylvania Ave. because they want America out of the demilitarized zone that separates their country from its Southern neighbor. So with the help of a traitor on the inside, they nab President Benjamin Asher (Eckhart), as well as his Vice President (Phil Austin) and Secretary of Defense (Melissa Leo). Banner is the only guy on the inside capable of doing anything rescue the hostages, but he has a history of failing when the shit hits the fan. There's a question of whether the terrorist in charge (Die Another Day's Rick Yune) has access to this country's nuclear codes, which adds an end-of-the-world element to the film. The problems start with the film's lack of suspense. Does director Antoine Fuqua (who's so much better than this) really think people sitting down to watch Olympus Has Fallen will think it plausible that nuclear weapons destroy the planet by the time it reaches its conclusion? Are we supposed to think North Korea really will succeed—dismantle the American government and reunite with the South? Good films manage to overcome these problems, at least to some degree. Olympus Has Fallen doesn't come close. It doesn't help that characters act in ludicrous ways. John McClane is allowed to crack one-liners, but they feel a little odd coming from high-ranking government officials trying to rescue the President. Ditto from said President and his fellow hostages. That said, the film generates a few solid laughs. You'll laugh your ass off seeing how crazy easy it is to break into the White House and kidnap the American President. All you need to know about the film's performances is that Gerard Butler is in the lead role. That just about says it all. There's nothing noteworthy from him. Nothing from Eckhart, Freeman, Melissa Leo, or Angela Bassett. They're all on action-thriller autopilot. It's a little disappointing considering Fuqua directed Training Day and got such an electric performance out of Denzel Washington. Olympus Has Fallen isn't a terrible film—of the two Die Hard films this year, the unofficial one comes out on top easily. It is a disappointing film, however. Fuqua should know how cheesy his shots of the tattered American flag are. He should know how hackneyed the subplot featuring Banning's mopey wife (Radha Mitchell) feel. He should know this screenplay is nonsense, and he should know he needs to bring it to make it work. He's working in paycheck mode, which is disappointing because this could have been a really enjoyable, albeit silly, flick. Alas, it's hardly worth a rental. Just watch Die Hard instead.


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