by Coop Cooper
I was definitely too hard on “Olympus Has Fallen.” At least it was watchable despite being far-fetched and full of plot holes. “White House Down,” while having a near identical plot, makes “Olympus Has Fallen” look like an Oscar contender. “White House Down” is reprehensible, dumb cinema that thumbs its nose at the audience then demands that we like it. Already it has usurped “World War Z” in my book as the worst film of 2013 so far.
A war veteran and Capitol City cop, Cale (Channing Tatum) arrives at the White House with his history-obsessed daughter to interview for a job with the Secret Service. Unqualified, he mumbles through the interview and is rejected while his daughter takes the tour. The President’s head of security, Walker (James Woods) suddenly commits treason by letting armed, white supremacist mercenaries into the White House and takes the building and President Sawyer (Jamie Foxx) hostage. Cale avoids detection during the takeover and covertly undermines the terrorists in order to save his daughter and the President.
While this film resembles “Olympus Has Fallen” in plot, I feel it shares some similarities (possibly rip-off moments) of another, far superior action film, “The Rock.”
James Woods as the villain is profoundly baffling. He claims to be committing treason to get revenge for his soldier son who died in Iraq. In order to do this, he needs access and codes to the President’s ‘nuclear football’ missile-launching briefcase so he can bomb Iran to teach the Middle East a harsh lesson. If you recall, in “The Rock,” Ed Harris’s character, General Hummel threatens to do the same to San Francisco in order to extort aid money for families of slain black-ops soldiers. Of course Hummel eventually relents because such a thing would be too monstrous. Not Woods’s character. He seems to take glee in execution, especially when threatening to kill Cale’s daughter with a cackle and a wink. He’s a very poorly thought-out villain.
The other villains are insulting as well. I’d be amazed if a white supremacist militia could successfully rob a liquor store, much less take over the White House. I suppose since the President is African American in the film, a naturally despicable villain was needed but a team of Special Forces soldiers (in “The Rock”) or even a team of undercover North Korean commandos (“Olympus Has Fallen”) would have been more believable. Making the villains overtly racist was a bit too lazy and on-the-nose.
As soon as Channing Tatum gains some ground to win me over, he quickly pulls the rug out from under me with films like this and “G.I. Joe 2.” I’m getting tired of him taking extreme action roles only to play a character who bumbles through them on mostly blind luck. His banter with Foxx made it even worse. It’s like they were trying to out-quip each other though the hails of gunfire and it didn’t help that their strong accents notably thickened up when they were in each others’ presence.
Most egregious of all, Jamie Foxx is not playing the President here. He is playing some sort of “In Living Color” comedy skit character of the President who yells “Get your hands off my Air Jordan’s!” right before kicking a terrorist in the face while wearing a pair of high tops – seriously, that actually happens in the film. At no time does he appear to show any Presidential dignity and spends most of the movie dropping wisecracks and slinging slang. It’s an absolute embarrassment.
Superficial Director Roland Emmerich probably made this film because he wanted to destroy the White House again like he did in “Independence Day,” “The Day After Tomorrow” and “2012.” If this – and his last few films – are any indication, his brand of 90’s-action hokum should become extinct, but with “Independence Day 2” threatening to go into production, I fear he will make a comeback.
And finally, don’t ever cast Maggie Gyllenhaal (who is second-in-command of Secret Service for some reason) in any A-list film again, especially for roles that demand some authority. Her demeanor is that of a stoned teenager who keeps the party going in-between takes. I complained about her slurred performance in “The Dark Knight” a couple of years ago, but she still shows up in big films playing serious roles. She has shown strength in quirky, indie roles and I wish she would go back there so I could write complimentary things about her again.
Oh yeah, and remember in “The Rock” where Nicholas Cage waves off an air strike on Alcatraz Island with a pair of flares? In “White House Down,” a little girl does the same thing with a giant American flag. Don’t see this movie.
Rating: 1 out of 5 stars