Olympus has Fallen

Dir: Antoine Fuqua
Star: Gerard Butler, Aaron Eckhart, Rick Yune, Morgan Freeman

It has been a while since I've seen such a shameless Die Hard ripoff. Not that this is necessarily a bad thing, and this does at least provide a good hero in Butler, and some crunchily R-rated violence which honours the original version nicely. Instead of a skyscraper, the venue is the White House, which is taken over by Korean terrorists who are holding the President (Eckhart) hostage. Butler is Secret Service guy Mike Banning, who used to be part of the President's bodyguard, until a car accident kills the POTUS's wife and son, after which Banning gets transferred away, being an every day reminder of the tragedy. But when the terrorists threaten to win, he rushes back into the fray, finding himself - and stop ne if you just might have heard this before - the sole hope of the captives, in the face of an apparently unstoppable terrorist threat. Meanwhile, helicopters get blown up trying to stage a rescue, someone pretends to be a hostage, and there's a sympathetic black guy (Freeman) on the outside, trying to help. Sheesh, guys: you might as well just have re-dubbed Die Hard with new dialogue, and released that.

Does that sound cynical? It probably should, because early on, this seemed to be ploughing its own furrow, most notably with a hellacious air-borne attack on America's capitol, that is a true nightmare scenario in both concept and execution. However, the more it goes on, the less it diverges, and the more it resembles its predecessor: approaching Die Hard as a limit, if you want it in math-speak. The problem is, there are ways in which Olympus is drastically inferior, most obviously in its colourless villain (Yune) with little or no personality. There's a backstory, where it looks like the President is going to be an ass-kicking kind of Commander-in-Chief, and at the risk of being spoilerish, this angle never amounts to anything at all. While Butler brings his usual, reliable physical presence to things, and the action is well-handled enough that you're never close to bored, there's a definite sense of diminishing returns to proceedings, and you're left with little more than a desire to watch Bruce Willis in a vest.

[September 2013]

Die Hard in a White House
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