These days, it’s a pretty fair assessment to say that action movies suck—horrendously suck—in diabolical ways. I wonder if we could ever return to the days before the Arnold became the “govuhnah” and when there were only two Fast and Furious installments. That being said, the latest addition to the genre, “Olympus has Fallen,” released on March 20, simply proves that even in a mosh pit of other wise lacklusters, not every good action movies require transforming 18-wheelers or Bruce Willis.
The plot revolves around Mike Banning (Gerard Butler), a former Secret Service agent to fictional President Asher (Aaron Eckhart) who left the force after a car accident that took the First Lady’s life. Now off duty from his presidential duties a year and a half later, Banning learns (as does the rest of D.C.) that in a matter of minutes, North Korean terrorists have infiltrated the White House, imprisoned the president, destroyed monuments and managed to take out the entire fleet of Secret Service agents. As things always happen in Cinema-land, the protagonist takes it upon himself to fight back and OF COURSE single-handedly saves the day.
It’s a pretty bold move to say on my part, but I think “Olympus” was one of the best action flicks I’ve seen in a while. I like to think it was a cross between “Die Hard” and “Air Force One.” The theater has been pretty hard up on good quality ones that don’t involve Nicolas Cage or gobs of CGI effects. While it was shot in D.C. (“National Treasure,” anyone?) and did contain some cheesy artificial effects, it somehow all comes out in the wash.
First of all, they had the advantage of shooting a beautiful city. You can’t ever go wrong with setting the scene in Washington, D.C., however much of it was actually shot there. As a matter of fact, I was in New Orleans last summer when they were filming there. Turns out, it’s way cheaper on production costs to shoot there. At least they got the typical aerial helicopter shots of the city.
One of my biggest pet peeves of action movies are the drawn-out periods of indiscernible small talk between characters, followed by incessant, unnecessary boughts of gunfire. To feel more of my rage in the matter, see my 2011 review of “Killer Elite.”
Luckily, “Olympus” almost pays homage to the greats like saying something like, “You’ll never get away with this!” or other lines that cleverly use the F-word.
The acting was suitable but not phenomenal. Gerard Butler so desperately wants to be the new “it” girl, if you will, of action movies, and while he does a good rough and tough kind of persona, he won’t be considered a great. Besides, his accent disguising his distinguishable Scottish cadence was a bit shaky. I was actually looking forward to seeing Ashley Judd reemerge, but it turned out that her role was a very small, here-and-gone part. I wasn’t terribly impressed with Aaron Eckhart’s role as the hostage president, but he redeems himself because he’s, well, Aaron Eckhart.
In any patriotic flick, we tend to be stand-in cheerleaders for the protagonist because of course we want to win, and when it comes to screwing with our country or specifically the White House, it cuts a little deeper than most action plots. Seeing national landmarks and the very epicenter of American politics being destroyed within minutes hits a tender nerve. It made me ill to see the Washington Monument tumble just as easily as a game of Jenga.
Then, at the same time, it made me wonder, “Why hasn’t this happened yet?” Though highly protected, the White House is such an obvious target, and after seeing the movie, it makes the entire nation vulnerable when under siege.
It’s become the trend to overkill—and then kill some more—and I’m not just talking about the body count. There is just so much of everything, and I always leave mental pooped following it. I’m as devoted a fan to Quentin Tarantino (a man famous for his absurdity) as the next person, but in the end, it really only meshes only for him. It’s his style and way of looking at good cinema.
Arguably, the violence and action sequences (and their outcomes) seemed a bit unrealistic and not relatable, and it’s aptly rated R for bloody violence and language. After all, the scene in the Lincoln Bedroom when Gerard Butler roundhouse kicks a Korean with a bust of Lincoln was comical at best. I know I sound hypocritical when I say this because typically I appreciate and critique based on the realness of the flick. To me, if a movie can master that aspect, it has a good chance of becoming a great flick. However, I leave some wiggle room for action movies. It’s basically their job to give us as viewers the thrill and guts we regularly don’t have ourselves, and they’re notorious for doing so, even back in the Stallone and Schwarzenegger heyday.
“Olympus” gets a three out of five chips from me. It was refreshing to see a quality action flick with gusto and heart floating around in a sea of otherwise movie monotony, despite its shortcomings. While it may not necessarily have the most original plot tactics, it definitely strikes up the feeling of, “Hey, get the H-E-double hockey sticks out of my country!” which I think anyone with a beating heart can vouch for in the end. And let’s face it: those sweet few minutes of Morgan Freeman as president fulfilled every movie dream you’ve ever had. Only in a perfect world…