Darke Reviews | White House Down (2013)

Darke Reviews – White House Down

Ahhh Hollywood, nearly every summer we get a glimpse of how ethical the studios really are. I want you to think back over the years and consider the number of times a movie comes out in theatres and then a few months later a very very similar film comes out. It happens in both movies and TV. This is what happens when a writer shops his script around trying to sell it to the studio to get made. The studio declines to pay him for his treatment and then hires another writer to make a film using the same concept. One is often more dramatic, the other more action oriented depending on the year, the studio and the environment. This years winner of the golden rip off pair is Olympus Has Fallen & White House Down. I cannot tell you which one was pitched first, so I do not know whom ripped off whom.

SO where does that leave us with White House Down, the second of the White House attack films this year? In a very interesting place by comparison to previous outings of a similar nature. WHen I saw the first of the two I thought it was the action oriented love letter to Die Hard and the first actual Die Hard film in nearly a decade. Tonight I saw another ode to John McTiernans classic action movie from the 80s. Thats right folks, we have another contender in the “I am a fan of Die Hard so I want to honor it with my take.”

Did they do it justice? Well..yes and no.

Director Roland “If Its a landmark I will destroy it” Emmerich actually has reigned his damage in and learned a slight ounce of subtlety. At the same time he wanted to do that THING. Writer James Vanderbilt (Amazing Spider Man, Losers, Basic) is probably the best script writer that Emmerich has worked with to date giving us more than a few characters that have the slightest degree of emotional investment and a plot, while still heavy handed in many respects, that is quite entertaining.

Channing “I’m hot but can’t act” Tatum, plays John McClain..er Cale (Yes his Jame is still John) who much like our original hero is a cop in the wrong place at the right time. He even spends half the movie in a white tank top that gets progressively dirty. He has a wife – sorry – daughter in harms way as one of sixty hostages. He must run around a complex building trying to avoid bad guys while getting more and more beaten up as he goes. There’s even a rooftop fight where the choppers are coming in.

Jamie Foxx is our President in this one. Don’t laugh. It works. Much like any president he is a man who has to be more than that. He has to make decisions no man should have to make and live with them. Sometimes they have costs in other peoples lives. FOxx delivers all of this and brings a much needed levity to this film.

Olympus has fallen was all action all the time. White House Down is action with the humor that OhF was missing. Even Tatum delivers a few good ones from time to time, which is hard for man whose cardboard cut out has more acting range.

Yes Jess – but is it good?

God no. But it is entertaining. Much like Fast 6 this is a Popcorn fest that this summer needed. Yes it has it’s eye rolling plot holes and things that just would not work, but that isn’t the point. While there is a not so subtle political message embedded in the film it doesn’t take itself seriously enough to be self righteous. Point in fact I was having a conversation with someone earlier today about movies that try for too many tones and don’t go far enough. This one goes for a few different ones and gets them right. It went just far enough and didn’t take itself too seriously at all.

This is what makes White House Down work

So for the TL;DR

If you are looking for a good popcorn flick – This will do just fine.

It isn’t weighty, it isn’t trying to sell something. It’s just raw very silly and quite ridiculous fun. Again, it is NOT good, but it is entertaining.

Darke Reviews | Olympus Has Fallen (2013)

If you haven’t heard of it, I am not surprised. The studio didn’t market this one heavily and after watching it I am left with a burning question – Why the frak not? We could not escape the advertisements of the wanna be Die Hard movie and it was an apocalyptic piece of celluloid garbage next to this. AGDtDH (I refuse to type it out) director John Moore needs to talk to Olympus has Fallen director Antoine Fuqua on how to do a Die Hard movie, much less how to direct an action movie.

This film is what Die Hard 5 should have been. Antoine (Shooter, Training Day) delivers in his usual directorial sense an action movie with no holds barred and no F-Bombs left behind. This movie is a bloody, brutal love letter to the original Die Hard. I swear there’s even a handful of scenes where I think the script writers paused writing, watched the original Die Hard and went – “How can do we do a scene like that?”. John McTiernan (director of the original Die Hard) would be proud of the bromance between these two films if he was allowed back in the U.S. Notice all my references to Die Hard? You should – this movie truly is Die Hard in the White House.

Fuqua pulls together a list of actors you know that is really quite impressive – Gerard “300” Butler, Aaron “Two Face” Eckhart, Rick “Ninja Assassin” Yune, Melissa Leo, Radha Mitchell, Angela “should have been Storm” Bassett, Cole Hauser, Dylan McDermot, Ashley Judd, and Morgan -mother frakin- Freeman. The movie starts with a car accident on an icy bridge after letting you get to know a few of the characters and their relationships. We have President Asher (Eckhart) and the head of his Secret Service detail Mike Banning (Butler). A few months later after things went pear shaped, we have tensions with the 21st century boogeyman – the North Koreans, on the rise. Approximately 20 minutes of time is devoted to character introductions. After that, it’s time for the bang. There is a lot of Bang. And Boom. And “Ow!!!!” Butler is everything we should expect of our action stars these days. The quips are few. The fights are brutal and efficient. The fights actually make you believe this guy has been trained to, oh I don’t know kill every person in the room that isn’t supposed to be there.

For all my enjoyment the movie is not flawless. It required one specific leap that would not happen. Once the Secret Service goes into action to protect the President, the President no longer gets a say in what happens to those around him. Their job is him, no one else. There are a handful of other moments that had me ask Whiskey Tango Foxtrot, but then I remembered I am watching a movie where the White House is getting attacked and taken over. I let some of the logic fails slide. One I cannot let slide is the subplot of the movie; where the moment the McGuffin is introduced I as the audience member understand the plan. Generals, Secret Service and other people ostensibly smarter than I am (character wise) do not see this “twist” coming. It angered me. With everything else executed so well, this Fail is kinda a let down.

for the TL;DR crowd –

If you are an action movie fan – see the first action movie worth a damn this year!!!
If you are a fan of any of the actors mentioned – See the damn thing!!
If you like the director – see the damn thing!

If you are not a fan of violent action – Give this a pass. I did mention the fight scenes are brutal. I am not joking. Knives are not to be messed with.

And for gods sake, if anyone who does read these reviews of mine knows anyone in Hollywood – point them to THIS movie on how to do an action movie or the next Die Hard the RIGHT WAY.

Olympus may have fallen, but thankfully the action movie has not.