Lucius Fox, Harvey Dent, and King Leonidas walk into a bar… OK, so maybe there isn’t a joke to go along with that intro, but the three do star together in the new action/thriller Olympus Has Fallen. The plot sounds like a joke unto itself: a disgraced Secret Service agent must single-handedly save the President after the White House is taken down by Koreans. See what I mean? The good news is that director Antoine Fuqua (Training Day) has delivered an even better Die Hard “sequel” than Bruce Willis could muster in A Good Day to Die Hard.
Mike Banning (Gerard Butler) leads the Secret Service under President Benjamin Asher (Aaron Eckhart). Mike is extra chummy with everyone and keeps a particular eye on the President’s son Connor (Finley Jacobsen), even teaching him tricks of the trade and where all the secret pathways are throughout the White House. On their way to a billionaire’s Christmas party, they all wind up in a horribly rendered CGI car crash on an icy bridge. Mike only manages to save the President — Connor was in Mike’s car — and the first lady, Margaret (Ashley Judd), dies. Cut to 18 months later, Mike has been reassigned to a desk job in the Treasury Department. Of course Mike hates his new assignment, and seems to be having some marital issues with his wife Leah (Radha Mitchell), but the boys on the force still look up to him, especially Forbes (Dylan McDermott).
Tension has come to a fever pitch in the Korean Demilitarized Zone and Prime Minister Lee (Keong Sim), along with his foreign aid, has just arrived to meet with the President to discuss their options. At the same time, an unidentified jet flies into the no-fly zone and all hell breaks loose in the streets of Washington, D.C. as a group of Korean terrorists attack the White House. Mike watches from a window and soon hits the street to save anyone he can, kill any terrorists he finds, and eventually winds up being the sole survivor of the attack inside the Oval Office while Lee is killed by his aid, Kang (Rick Yune), and takes the President hostage — now aided by Forbes — inside the President’s Emergency Operations Center (PEOC), along with Secretary of Defense Ruth McMillan (Melissa Leo). Meanwhile, Mike must make like McClane, at the behest of Acting President Speaker Trumbull (Morgan Freeman), Secretary Service Director Lynn Jacobs (Angela Bassett), and General Edward Clegg (Robert Forster).
I have to admit, my expectations walking into Olympus Has Fallen were extremely low. Director Fuqua doesn’t have the best track record (see Tears of the Sun, King Arthur, Shooter, or Brooklyn’s Finest) and screenwriters Creighton Rothenberger and Katrin Benedikt are making their debuts. But if it’s of any indication, Fuqua still has some fight in him and I can’t wait to see what the writers come up with next. The cast seems to be keeping their tongues firmly in cheek and see the ridiculousness of what’s happening around them. Melissa Leo gets a huge laugh when she belts out the Pledge of Allegiance and Yune can’t get through a scene without a smirk.
Thankfully, this could be seen as a comeback vehicle for Butler who hasn’t been this much fun in a while. He even seems like he’s gearing up for Gamer 2 in more than one scene as he trots around the White House halls in the same gear, brandishing a huge gun. It should be noted that the R-rating is fully lived up to as well. There are some spectacularly violent scenes; it would surprise me if more ammunition is spent in these two hours than most action films. If you’re looking for a fast-paced dose of big, dumb, fun while we wait for the Summer blockbusters to come rolling in at a weekly pace, look no further than Olympus Has Fallen. It’s definitely the most fun you can have at the movies right now and will stand out as one of the best action films of the year.
Photos courtesy FilmDistrict