BY DAN METCALF
Clipper Film Correspondent
Rated R for strong violence and language throughout.
Starring Gerard Butler, Aaron Eckhart, Finley Jacobsen, Dylan McDermott, Rick Yune, Morgan Freeman, Angela Bassett, Melissa Leo, Radha Mitchell, Cole Hauser, Phil Austin, James Ingersoll, Freddy Bosche, Lance Broadway, Robert Forster, Ashley Judd.
Written by Creighton Rothenberger and Katrin Benedikt.
Directed by Antoine Fuqua.
It's a sad state of affairs when you run out of politically-correct enemies in movies. It used to be cool to vilify the Russians, then Arab terrorists, then the Chinese. With the fluid nature of global/political conflict, the list of acceptable bad guys is getting short (What's next? The Canadians?). For example, the recent “Red Dawn” remake suffered through a big, expensive re-shoot after Chinese film distributors disapproved of the movie's original villains (The Chinese), forcing producers to replace them with North Koreans. It is those same North Koreans who are the play the antagonists in “Olympus Has Fallen,” the story of a terrorist attack on The White House.
Gerard Butler plays former secret service agent Mike Banning, working a boring desk job at the Treasury Department following an unfortunate mishap involving the president's family. It's several months after the tragic event when a group of North Korean terrorists launch an attack on the White House. Banning jumps into the battle, dodging a hail of bullets and explosions until he gets inside the White House.
In the basement, the terrorists, led by the evil Kang (Rick Yune) are holding the president (Aaron Eckhart), the vice president (Phil Austin) the secretary of State (Melissa Leo) and most of the president's staff hostage. Under such a crisis, the de facto presidency falls to the speaker of the House of Representatives Trumbull (Morgan Freeman), who consults with intelligence and military leaders.
Meanwhile back inside the White House, Banning turns out to be the only good guy left alive, as he fights to ward off Kang's henchmen while establishing communication with Trumbull and the rest of the people in charge. Banning is entrusted by Trumbull to locate the president's son (Finley Jacobsen) before Kang can capture him and threaten the boy's life to force the president into divulging a secret code that will make all the country's nuclear missiles explode inside their silos.
As the situation escalates, Banning must get to the bunker before Kang can execute all the president's staff and set off an apocalypse.
“Olympus Has Fallen” is one of the most ridiculous action films ever made, and aside from the Washington D.C. setting (actually shot in New Orleans), it is nearly an exact copy of the original “Die Hard” (1988), right down to the lone hero leaping to safety as a botched helicopter rescue goes awry on the roof. The movie is full of implausible plot twists and silly conveniences that are hard to take seriously, and inspire more laughter than cheers. Speaking of cheers, “Olympus Has Fallen” is one long pep rally for the good old U.S. of A., teetering on full-fledged jingoism, like a live-action version of ”Team America: World Police.” The patriotism seethes through with every macho-patriotic one-liner, adding to the unintentional comedy. Despite the absurdity of the story and script, “Olympus Has Fallen” is a lot of fun, if you can suspend belief and have a good laugh at such patriotic extremes.
Olympus Has Fallen’ is rated R for good reason, with plenty of salty language and an abundance of gory violence, most of which comes in the form of dozens of people taking gunshots to the head. Some of those scenes add to the unintentional comedy, but be warned that it makes “Die Hard” seem like a Disney Channel show in comparison.