Sometimes movies are like London buses; you wait for ages for one Die Hard in The White House movie to come along and then two arrive at once. White House Down may have lost the race out of the gates to Olympus Has Fallen but, despite that film getting a sequel, Channing Tatum and Jamie Foxx are an endlessly more interesting screen presence than the chins that are Gerard Butler and Aaron Eckhart.
Capitol policeman John Cale (Channing Tatum) is heading to The White House with his daughter Emily (Joey King) in tow for a job interview. But while there a team of ruthless mercenaries attack the most famous address in the world, taking Emily hostage and hoping to use President Sawyer (Jamie Foxx) to orchestrate a war. But with Cale loose in the White House the villains, led by former Head Of Security Walker (James Woods) and violent soldier Stenz (Jason Clarke) have more on their hands than they bargained for.
The problem with having two such similar films out in such close proximity means it’s nearly impossible not to compare and contrast. Where Olympus was all about the action it took itself far too seriously, making what should be a typically stupid Hollywood blockbuster po-faced and unintentionally cheesy. White House Down does not make that same mistake. Instead Down wears its Die Hard homage/rip-off firmly on its grubby white vest – Tatum spends much of the film in just such apparel. The dialogue is funny, the characters, right down to the classical music loving hacker villain, are memorable and more than anything the buddy relationship between Tatum and Foxx is always fun to be in the company of.
Yes, the plot makes about as much sense as a bodyguard arguing with a squirrel (which takes place here), it’s so bombastic it deals with a violent attack on the White House being caused by the President wanting to orchestrate peace in the Middle East. But when you’ve got set pieces like a heavily armoured limo partaking in a car chase around the White House lawn in front of the world’s media it’s hard not to turn the brain off and simply enjoy the ride.
Director Roland Emmerich has never been one to shy away from kicking seven shades out of The White House but here prefers to go for a bit of a gutting as opposed to the all-out obliteration we saw in Independence Day, a film that is mentioned at one point. And therein lies the fun, if a film set in the White House that involves mass destruction doesn’t pay lip service to a film like Independence Day you’re probably doing it wrong.
White House Down is exactly what you want from a dumb action movie; funny, laughable plot, wise-cracking characters and enough crash, bang wallop to make even Michael Bay smile. If you only see one Die Hard with a President rip-off make it White House Down.