Director: Antoine Fuqua
MPAA Rating: R
Studio: Millennium Films
Stars: Gerard Butler, Aaron Eckhart, Morgan Freeman
If Olympus Has Fallen represents what now passes for a blockbuster action flick, man oh man, have our moviegoing expectations sunk to one helluva low. For the record—and for those hopelessly nostalgic for a throwback to cheesy action movies of the ’80s—here’s the rundown. Aaron Eckhart plays the U.S. prez held hostage in the White House by a group of vicious North Korean terrorists while U.S. House Speaker Morgan Freeman tries to stay the course. Dishonored, trigger-happy secret service guy Gerard Butler gets summoned to pretty much single-handedly save the day while wreaking bloody mayhem and spitting out quips and one-liners.
In other words, what’s being served up is warmed-over Die Hard meets Red Dawn on Air Force One with a stopover at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, minus the saving graces of humor, self-awareness and spit-in-your-eye panache. Look, it’s more than okay that the movie, directed by Antoine (Training Day) Fuqua from a script by Creighton Rothenberger and Katrin Benedikt doesn’t sport the year’s most original setup. After all, this thing is jerry-rigged as a template for tons of action, flag-waving and rabble-rousing.
On that level, Olympus Has Fallen succeeds as fast-moving B-movie fun, complete with tacky, cardboardy sets, eye-searingly lousy CGI and special effects, lots of flashy hardware and firepower, a nuclear Armageddon ticking clock and heaps of hilariously silly illogic. We’re talking enjoyably zany Independence Day-level stupidity here. We get smirky, ruthless terrorist played with one-note sameness by sleek Rick Yune. We get eye-flashing and nostril-flaring from ramrod tense Angela Bassett as the Secret Service Director.
We get shameless scenery-chewing by tortured Defense Secretary Melissa Leo, the movie’s Shelley Winters. We get Gerard Butler going brutally mano a mano Rambo-style against those who, um, you know, hate our freedoms. “We want our country back” types should be in hog heaven. But to fully groove to the movie, you need to be okay with its junkheap jingoism, as represented by Butler’s one-man, can-do army of stabbing Koreans in the forehead and recurring shots of the torn and tattered American flag meant to make us lament America’s fall from grace.
For those with a sense of history and geography—Korea is not in Southeast Asia as this thing tries to tell us—the movie is a test. For those willing to climb this Olympus with a sense of humor, it’s at least nervy, pulpy fun. Meanwhile, those hungry for a sequel can hold tight for Channing Tatum in this summer's White House Down, which is pretty much the same movie with a more likable star and a bigger budget.