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Last month, I had a fine time carving the stuffing out of A Good Day to Die Hard, the stupid, misguided bloat that some genius decided was acceptable as the latest chapter in the popular franchise.  One of that filmís many trespasses was in clearly having been a random, generic action script into which the beloved John McClane character had been uncomfortably jammed.  Would that the creators of that movie looked a little further for a Die Hard vehicle and they mightíve come up with Olympus Has Fallen.

A snowy night at Camp David changes the lives of the President of the United States and his family forever.  The Secret Service agent on duty at the time also suffers the repercussions of that event, although there was nothing anyone could have done to prevent it.  Mike Banning is a walking reminder of the tragedy and cannot be allowed in the Presidentís line of sight.  Banning takes what equates to a desk job in Washington DC, marking time until he can serve on active duty again.  That day comes a lot sooner than expected when an extremely elaborate plan by a group of North Korean patriots deploys and does the unthinkable; takes the President hostage and demolishes the White House.  Banning, having viewed the rampant destruction from his office window, catapults himself into the action and calls upon his superior Secret Service ninja skills to infiltrate the terroristsí stronghold before they can get their hands on nuclear codes and eliminate the PoTUS.

Besides not being the actual Die Hard sequel (Címon, McClane taking his grandkids through a White House tour when the North Koreans come calling? Cinematic gold!), which would have been a far better fit, Olympus Has Fallen features another wasted opportunity in the person of its star, Gerard Butler.  Butler, who was once best known for his stunning, star-making turn as the wry, muscle-bound Spartan King Leonidas in the blockbuster, 300, might now be equally well known for shoving away that momentum with both hands by appearing in more than his share of gonad-shriveling rom-coms with Jennifer Aniston and Katherine Heigl, or B-movie actioners mostly of DVD-premiere quality.  Rarely has an actor given the type of instant recognition that 300 gave Butler, so thoroughly dismissed his good fortune with a torrent of bad career choices.  Olympus Has Fallen is yet another one of those dumb second-string actioners, but this time with a stellar cast who were probably under the impression they were in for something better.  The movie does feature its share of loud explosions and big CGI catastrophes, like the toppling of the Washington Monument.  Itís also pretty gory; with gunshots at point-blank range emitting blasts of red mist through the nearest skull.  Still, the whole thing is loopy and dumb.  We are meant to believe that the US government, with surveillance enough to find a lost goat in the Sahara, didnít keep tabs on this super-efficient North Korean terrorist killing machine, particularly in light of the visit of the South Korean Prime Minister?  Mind you, this gang of bad guys is lead by a man whose information was currently on file as a threat: Clearly the pair of lensless glasses he sported up until the big takeover fooled any and all face-recognition technology, just like Clark Kent.  I could have told the CIA that if someone is wearing a pair of glasses with no glass in them - watch out, theyíre evil!  That this group could have deployed such an extensive path of destruction with absolutely no warning and no sign of a US military rejoinder until midway through the movie is just ridiculous.  Much time is spent attempting to gin up tension with the White House staff being tortured and threatened for their nuke codes and a wasted storyline which I guess was meant to make more of Banningís close relationship with the Presidentís young son by putting him in mild, anticlimactic peril.  There are way too many silly coincidences and over-the-top jingoistic moments -- which arenít necessarily a bad thing.  Hearing a trounced and pummeled Melissa Leo shriek the Pledge of Allegiance over an aggressively heroic soundtrack as she is literally dragged off by the terrorists to what might be her execution is an unexpectedly campy hoot.  Mind you, the reason sheís so battered is because the President, played by Aaron Eckhart (Working way too hard for this dreck.) takes his sweet time in contemplation while the thugs viciously punch the humanity out of his petite Secretary of Defense before deciding to give up the codes.  Other slumming stars include the ever-luminous Angela Bassett, who Iím convinced couldíve stopped the terrorist invasion with a simple lift of a perfectly-groomed eyebrow.  Robert Forsterís panicky military general channels both George C. Scott from Dr. Strangelove and Alexander Haig.  Morgan Freeman looks like he needs a nap as the Speaker of the House, and I donít know who Ashley Judd annoyed in Hollywood, but donít blink when sheís on (Maybe they actually did her a favour).  The handsome Rick Yune is reduced to a monotone scowl as the Asian big bad, though I have a feeling weíll be seeing more characters like his in upcoming terrorism actioners as Hollywood gets more comfortable with North Korea as an all-purpose US enemy.  Gerard Butler sells the movieís physical exertions convincingly and reels off the movieís few sharp one-liners charmingly.  That combination is really Butlerís niche in action films, but that affable presence is for naught if the setting doesnít meet his work, which is the case here.  Even for a mindless popcorn movie -- which isnít necessarily what I would expect from Antoine Fuqua, director of the excellent Training Day -- there needs to be some plausibility and this movie is pulling too hard on my belief suspenders.  All the explosions and bombastic violence in the world cannot hide a dumb flick and there we have Olympus Has Fallen.

 

~ The Lady Miz Diva

March 22nd, 2013

 

 

 

 

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Photos

Stills Courtesy of  FilmDistrict

 

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