When the most secure, impregnable building in the Free World, the White House, is attacked and easily captured by an army of ruthless North Korean terrorists and the U.S. President (constipated Robert Redford-impersonator Aaron Eckhart) is taken hostage by their vicious leader, Kang (Rick Yune), who’s intent on single-handedly destroying South Korea and kicking off World War 3, the fate of the world rests on the broad, manly shoulders of incongruously Scottish, disgraced Secret Service agent Mike Banning (Gerard Butler) who’s still haunted by his failure to save the First Lady (an all too brief Ashley Judd) in the freak Christmas car accident (ho, ho, ho!) that opens the film.
While statesman-like Speaker of the House Morgan Freeman (played byMorgan Freeman. And just how does Aaron Eckhart get to be the Man when Morgan Freeman is in the same party?) dithers and the sympathetic Head ofthe Secret Service Angela Bassett and douchebag General Robert Forsterclash over how best to handle the crisis (Forster wants to send in the troops while Bassett wants to let Big Gerry do his thang), the bodies start piling up and it’s up to Mike to take the fight to the terrorists, rescue the Prez and save the world (or at least the USA) from nuclear annihilation. But the countdown to Armageddon is already ticking…
So jaw-droppingly, astonishingly, blood-splattering violent that practically every red-blooded, red meat-eating male in the audience will have to hastily cross their legs in embarrassment and place a coat or bag in their lap to hide the mahogany they’re sporting, Olympus Has Fallen is dumb, trashy, hugely entertaining, ultra-violent fun. Sure, it’s also shockingly xenophobic but the North Koreans are everyone’s current bogeymen of choice and the dirty S.O.B.s do callously gun down a patriotic American German Shepherd (along with much of the District of Columbia) during their attack on the White House so, you know, screw ‘em! It’s a wonder they didn’t try to barbecue and eat the dog right there in the middle of Pennsylvania Avenue! These scumbags deserve to get their coupons chibbed* by Big Gerry Butler!
Practically every review you read of Olympus Has Fallen will have one thing in common – it will compare Antoine Fuqua’s muscular slaughter-fest to John McTiernan’s 1988 pared-down, stripped-to-the-bone, action classic Die Hard. It’s Die Hard they’ll tell you, in the White House!
They’re not wrong.
With its indestructible one-man killing machine taking on an army of evil foreign terrorists, Olympus Has Fallen does indeed owe a huge debt to Bruce Willis’ finest hour (or 2 hours 11 minutes if you want to pick nits). But it owes a much larger debt to the Steven Seagal-starring Die Hard knock-off, Under Siege where ship’s cook (and former SEAL) Seagal is the indestructible one-man killing machine, aided only by a big-boobed stripper with bigger beetle eyebrows, who must take on an army of mercenaries/terrorists who have taken over his battleship with the express intention of nuking Hawaii. Throw in a pinch of In The Line Of Fire and a scoop of Team America and you’ve got almost the perfect Saturday night slice of movie wish fulfillment for the modern emasculated male. In fact, possibly the only way Olympus Has Fallen could be improved is if it was just Gerard Butler and Jason Statham punching each other in the face for the entire two hours running time.
Far from fresh and original (the similarly-themed White House Down has lunkheaded beefcake Channing Tatumtread similar corridors) and in no way subtle, Olympus Has Fallen is stuffed full of slo-mo shots of the grubby, tattered, bullet-torn Stars ‘n’ Stripes, explosions that would make Michael Bay tumescent and a visceral, pulse-pounding air attack that results in such indiscriminate bloody carnage that it makes the opening half hour of Saving Private Ryanlook like Carry On Abroad.
The supporting cast acquit themselves admirably; while Morgan Freeman is once more phoning in his customary elder statesman schtick, Eckhart makes a decent, intense President, Rick Yune is thoroughly despicable as Kang, Dylan McDermott is wonderfully slimy as Mike’s traitorous former best bud and Melissa Leo’s Defense Secretary is tough and ballsy. The same can’t be said however of the film’s other female stars with Radha Mitchell, Ashley Judd and, most unforgivably, Angela Bassett, all criminally underused.
As untroubled by anything approaching logic and sense as he is by the terrorist horde, Butler owns the film. Despite a dodgy Mid-Atlantic accent that’s part Sean Connery and part Sheena Easton, Big Gerry is at his charismatic, tough guy best, swaggering through the film, despatching baddies left, right and centre, snapping necks, popping caps and here a stab, there a stab, everywhere a stab-stab. In fact, given the amount of enemies Gerry viciously knives in the face, a better title for the film would have been Olympus Has Fallen: Rise of the Heidstabber! You can take the boy out of Paisley but, on the evidence of his blade work, it seems you can’t take Paisley out of the boy.
While it would be easy to dismiss Olympus Has Fallen as ridiculous, violent, jingoistic twaddle, the film’s greatest strength (other than Butler) is that it knows exactly what its audience wants and delivers. Big, dumb, loud, thrilling and shamefully entertaining, Olympus Has Fallen is the film you’ll wish the last three Die Hards had been.
* coupons chibbed = faces stabbed.