Tuesday, July 2, 2013

Review: Olympus Has Fallen

I meant to catch Olympus Has Fallen at the local cinema during its theatrical release, but with two assaults on the White House slated for 2013 (the other being White House Down), I decided to take a pass on this one.  Because it featured a C-level star in Gerard Butler and was being released during the first quarter or 2013, I felt like it would probably be the lesser of the two much the same way Deep Impact was a (very) poor man’s Armageddon.  Having finally had the chance to watch the action vehicle, I can tell you that it is not a good movie.  But that doesn’t necessarily mean that it is completely un-fun to watch.

The plot of the movie focuses on Butler’s Mike Banning – an expert secret service agent who is forced to make a tough on-the-job decision and is thus removed from his spot on the president’s detail.  Despite his banishment, he manages to get involved when a group of Koreans manage to infiltrate the White House and unleash an all out attack on the most secure building in the United States.  Butler thus spends the rest of the filming trying desperately to save President Asher (Aaron Eckhart) before the terrorist brigade can achieve their ultimate goal.

The director of this film, Antoine Fuqua is fondly remembered for the fantastic job he turned in with Training Day – a very solid movie that helped Denzel Washington earn his first Oscar.  What most people should remember though is that after said film, Fuqua failed to impress with movies like Tears of the Sun, King Arthur, and Shooter – a most lackluster trio of films.  Still, I went into this film hoping that Fuqua could pull a good narrative from what seemed would be a complete mess.  Unfortunately, that didn’t happen.

Olympus Has Fallen, has some fun sensationalized action sequences that are large in scale but completely defy logic.  Still, that’s not the point.  Realism gets thrown out the window pretty early on.  This film is geared towards those who are jonesing for straight up action.  Guns, rocket launchers, helicopters, nuclear warheads – there’s no shortage of fisticuffs and explosions.  In fact, had the film been comprised of two straight hours of non-stop action, it would have played better. Sadly though, Butler and his fellow combatants have lines to speak and every time one of them opens their mouths, the movie gets worse.  The blame for that goes to writers Creighton Rothenberger and Katrin Benedikt.

I think we’ve seen enough of Gerard Butler to know that he is not the caliber of actor who can overcome terrible lines.  In fact, he almost basks in them, especially when you put a bulletproof vest on his chest and an assault rifle in his hands.  He’s not terrible in this role – as there are junctures in the film where he is actually decent, but whenever he has to sell something more than grand machismo, it falls apart.  Aaron Eckhart as President Asher fares even worse.  He single handedly turns the Commander-in-Chief into a walking set of clich├ęs with hammed up expressions and tired sentiments that feel like they were ripped off from a Successories poster.

As for the rest of the cast, Morgan Freeman turns in the stock Morgan Freeman performance.  It feels like one of his past performances could have just as easily been copied and pasted in this film and completely saved him a trip to the set.  Radha Mitchell, Dylan McDermott, and Angela Bassett fail to impress in this film though it’s not entirely their respective faults as each were cast as paper-thin characters with no depth whatsoever.  They could have been replaced with unknown actors and the movie would have been no worse off.  Theirs represents a very disappointing waste of talent.

My biggest beef with this film though comes in the form of Rick Yune.  He, of Snow Falling on Cedars, The Fast and the Furious, and Die Another Day fame, has never been able to act and apparently still cannot.  That he still gets cast in anything defies all logic.  It’s painful to watch him speak a line or cast a look; there’s just no acting talent there whatsoever.   And his ability to speak Korean (ditto for those cast as his cohorts) is so jarring to the reality of this film that it strips whatever shred of credibility this film has left.  It’s amazing to me that in this day and age, the producers of a one hundred million dollar project can’t manage to find someone who can provide proper voice over work. 

So as you can see, there are a lot of issues with this movie.  Despite this, I am not willing to completely cast it aside.  Sure, most of Olympus Has Fallen’s action stretches your disbelief, but that’s what works best about it – that it basks in the nonsensical as if it were straight out of the mid 90’s.  For those who like this kind of unabashed action, there’s always a place for another bombastic adventure short on the merits of storytelling, but long on cool visuals and logic defying stunts.  If you are this type of person, then you should definitely rent this film.  It will provide you with two hours of moderate entertainment.  However, if you require dialogue, coherent plot points, and real acting, then you will want to take a pass on this one.  It will fill you with regret at about the twenty-minute mark.  The choice is yours.

Standout Performance:  Ashley Judd.  She gives the movie exactly what it demands from her.