Grotesquely violent, sweary, nuts-and-bolts action flick Olympus Has Fallen, starring and produced by gruff Scottish lump “THIS IS BUTLER!” Gerard Butler (300, Law Abiding Citizen), makes uncomfortable viewing.
Not for it’s graphic terrorist attack on Washington, bloody and uncompromising as it is; but for the dire poverty of script and ideas in this cynical money-making behemoth which plunders the worst excesses of Die Hard and Under Seige.
You know you’re in trouble when the PR people call the director ‘visionary.’ Especially when the ‘visionary’ is Antoine Fuqua (King Arthur, Training Day), a blind man who couldn’t direct traffic.
Note to Hollywood: can we all just stop remaking Die Hard. It’s bad enough Bruce Willis remakes it every few years, bigger, louder and stupider than the last. Under Siege was Die Hard on a Ship; Passenger 57, Die Hard on a Plane. Executive Decision; Die Hard on Another Plane.
Olympus Has Fallen even dares to quote “Die Hard in the White house” on its posters.
Butler’s testosterone-pumped Secret Service Agent gets chucked off the Presidential detail for letting the First Lady die in a car crash, so he’s on a one-man mission of redemption for the rest of the movie, which involves shooting and stabbing as many foreigners in the head as possible.
If 80’s action flicks from Sly, Arnie, Dolph and Jean-Clod were gratuitously crass and comic-book dumb, they are like Antiques Roadshow next to this.
Spray Washington streets with phalanx guns from the air; check. Shoot way into White House in massive fire-fight; check. Voyeuristically blow lots of brains out with buckets of blood – repeatedly – check.
The trouble with this Nearly-Die-Hard-17 is not the ludicrous body count in the hundreds; it’s the cranked-up-to-11 plot.
Smash top off Washington Monument; check. Rescue president’s too-cute child; check. Put Butler on roof with not one but five exploding helicopters; check. Threaten nuclear missile armageddon and World War Three; check. Feature big-screen countdown clock with seconds to go for ludicrous finale; check.
North Korea provides the villains of the decade, with Rick Yune (Die Another Day) squatting in the White House bunker like a cut-price Dr Evil.
Fine actors such as Robert Foster and Morgan Freeman (Shawshank, Oblivion) look all at sea. Freeman doesn’t need to act despairing, he just has to think about the script.
Aaron Eckhardt is supposed to be a better class of president, but his noble spirit of sacrifice is undercut by the fact he is just too queasy to look at.
The predictable script shadows Die Hard and Under Siege almost to the page numbers with Butler growling his lines lower and lower with every scene; soon only tectonic plates will feel him rumbling.
If you want a decent White House thriller, look no further than Eastwood and Malkovich in Wolfgang Petersen’s In the Line of Fire.
Move along, folks. Nothing to see here. RC
Olympus Has Fallen (2013)
Director: Antoine Fuqua
Writers: Creighton Rothenberger, Katrin Benedikt
Running time: 1 hr. 59 min
Genre: Action & Adventure
Cast: Gerard Butler, Aaron Eckhart, Morgan Freeman, Angela Bassett, Melissa Leo, Ashley Judd, Rick Yune, Dylan McDermott, Radha Mitchell, Robert Forster, Cole Hauser