Cast: Gerard Butler, Aaron Eckhart, Morgan Freeman, Melissa Leo, Rick Yune, Radha Mitchell, Robert Forster
Running time: 120 minutes
The lowdown: Gerard Butler goes Die Hard 9/11 in an absurd rip-off of Bruce’s finest hour. Along with liberal liftings from Air Force One and every Chuck Norris and Steven Seagal movie ever to darken Channel 5’s 9pm slot. A preposterously jingoistic and xenophobic replay of September 11th as a shoot-em-up console game, the charmless Butler is secret service agent Mike Banning, forced to rescue President Aaron Eckhart when North Korean terrorists storm the White House. Eckhart, plus co-stars Morgan Freeman and Melissa Leo and Training Day director Antoine Fuqua should all know better.
The full verdict: Gerard Butler may be reaching for the mantle of Bruce Willis or Hugh Jackman, but in reality is this generation’s Chuck Norris.
A glance over his CV sees him battling dirty foreigners (300, Attila the Hun), dirty fair legal practices (Law Abiding Citizen), dirty sexual equality (The Ugly Truth, The Bounty Hunter) and dirty foreigners once again in this doltish actioner.
Nastier than the equally empty-headed Red Dawn remake (which due to a late in the day change also had North Koreans invading America), the xenophobia and glorification of torture and brutality (but only when Americans are doing it) make Olympus Has Fallen Butler’s worst to date. And another invasion paranoia fantasy the NRA can oil their weapons to.
Over two deadening hours debuting writers Katrin Benedikt and Creighton Rothenberger (whose very names sound like baddies in a Seagal film) plunder TV and big screen thrillers for this Oval Office offal.
Butler’s Banning wishes to right his previous wrong involving a beloved President – like Clint Eastwood in In the Line of Fire. He calmly tortures cowering foreigners – like Kiefer Sutherland in 24. He has to rescue the President’s imperilled son – like Sutherland again, with his daughter in 24. Inside the White House he meets an ally only to discover he’s the enemy – like John McClane with Hans Gruber in Die Hard.
And Rick Yune is the chief “north of the 38th parallel” villain, a role he played before in Die Another Day – 007’s most recent double-oh-dear.
All this familiarity breeds contempt, not helped by shonky CGI during the opening attack when the terrorists use a US bomber to rain fire on downtown Washington. Plus, the ludicrous assertion that one big plane, two dump trucks and forty North Korean tourists can overrun the world’s most protected building.
Morgan Freeman phones in his dignity-in-a-crisis schtick as the acting President. Aaron Eckhart channels little of Harvey Dent as a Commander-in-Chief chained to a railing for most of the running time. Radha Mitchell as Banning’s wife is required merely to be moist of eyes.
Actor/producer Butler is clearly eying a franchise here, but his Bourne clone is too brutal and unengaging to muster much audience support. By the time the inevitable nuclear catastrophe countdown begins the only sane response is to declare war on Hollywood.
Roland Emmerich’s upcoming White House Down has a lot of heavy-lifting to do if it’s to cleanse the palate of this stinker.