Olympus has Fallen (2013)

(Video on Demand, September 2013) For everyone who thought that overly patriotic high-concept action movies had gone out with the nineties, the good news is that Olympus Has Fallen doesn’t merely exist, but is the first of two “White House taken over by terrorists” films released in 2013.  We’ve come a long way from 9/11 when such big-budget high-concept action movies can be released widely, and that’s a good thing.  Whether the films are any good is another subject entirely, and watching Olympus Has Fallen, it’s clear that while it occasionally hits its mark, it doesn’t quite understand part of what made those 90s action movies so enjoyable.  In a few words: PG-13 action over R-rated violenceOlympus Has Fallen, rated R, seems overly violent, profane and humorless for what is supposed to be popcorn entertainment in the Die Hard mold.  It tries to be broadly amusing with funny quips and overdone action set-pieces, but then it plasters its dialogue with useless profanity and revels in showing gory violence (some of which perpetrated gleefully by the so-called hero).  The result can’t very well be watched with the kind of carefree fun that PG-13 action films usually create: you’re always on guard for the next excursion in violence and gratuitous language.  It doesn’t help that Olympus Has Fallen has little wit, charm or grace: Gerald Butler is merely OK as the lone operator chasing down the terrorists within the White House –anyone else could have done just as well.  Morgan Freeman sleepwalks through another presidential role, and while it’s good to see Angela Bassett get another role, this one won’t leave any lasting impression.  Director Antoine Fuqua is a seasoned veteran who knows how to put together an action scene, but he seems hampered by sub-standard CGI work (some of the C-130 gunship sequences look unfinished) and a script that never exceeds the perfunctory and seems to forget how to tie up (or even acknowledge) loose ends.  Olympus Has Fallen is watchable, but it’s not hard to complain about various elements that could have been improved to produce a better film.  Now let’s see if White House Down does any better… [January 2014: Yes, White House Down is quite a bit better.]

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