Film Review: ‘Olympus Has Fallen’

Gerard Butler (tries to) play Bruce Willis in the "Die Hard" ripoff "Olympus Has Fallen," out today. Credit: Phillip V. Caruso
Gerard Butler (tries to) play Bruce Willis in the “Die Hard” ripoff “Olympus Has Fallen,” out today.
Credit: Phillip V. Caruso

‘Olympus Has Fallen’
Director: Antoine Fuqua
Stars: Gerard Butler, Aaron Eckhart
Rating: R
3 (out of 5) Globes

In “Olympus Has Fallen,” a “Die Hard” in the White House deal, the president (Aaron Eckhart) is kidnapped by terrorists and only a secret service agent (Gerard Butler) can save the day (and America, and the world). As it happens, that’s also the plot of “White House Down,” due in June. Hollywood is a well-oiled machine, but it sporadically forcefeeds us the same thing twice almost simultaneously. 1998, infamously, saw dueling killer asteroid pics (“Deep Impact,” “Armageddon”) and two animated films about bugs (“Antz,” “A Bug’s Life”).

As ever, it would’ve been ideal had the two productions pooled their resources. “White House Down” has Channing Tatum as our Bruce Willis-y lone hero, Jamie Foxx as the president plus other overqualified thespians (Maggie Gyllenhaal, Richard Jenkins). But it also has director Roland Emmerich (“Independence Day”). Butler is no Tatum, but “Olympus” also boasts Morgan Freeman, Angela Bassett, even freakin’ Melissa Leo.

At least it’s not bloated. Emmerich is a tiresome super-sizer. “Olympus Has Fallen” director Antoine Fuqua (“Training Day”) is tough and good with actors. The screenplay is old school in the way it dreams up almost-plausible ways to keep its plot going, and smart enough to quickly fix developments it never should have created (like briefly saddling Butler with the President’s kid). After a gory, brutal siege, Butler finds himself roaming the White House, dispatching baddies, who are part of a moneyed rogue North Korean terrorist organization. As with last year’s “Red Dawn” remake, those from an impoverished nation raised enough cash to fund a pricey assault on the world’s mightiest superpower.

Their invasion of one of the world’s most impregnable fortresses yields the requisite sporadic “America, F—k Yeah!” fist-pumps and superimposed shots of Old Glory, even though our hero is a Scotsman. Butler is a man’s man asskicker fixed with a lame motivational backstory: he was unable to save the First Lady (Ashley Judd) during an accident in which there was no way she wouldn’t die. But he’s a humorless brute and, to the point, no Bruce Willis, particularly when he tries to be. To its credit, the film wisely cuts away from him: to the War Room, where Freeman and Bassett collect paychecks; and to the President’s Bunker, where Leo proves her Oscar mettle by getting beaten-up and undressed while shrieking The Pledge of Allegiance. It’s a diverting mess that would have been less entertaining if it had been more competent.


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