The last six years of Gerard Butler‘s career haven’t exactly been the best years one could have as an actor. Since endearing himself to mainstream audiences with the 2006 “historical” gore-fest 300, Butler’s been mostly box-office and reviewer poison. He was heading down the path of a poor man’s Matthew McConaghey, doomed to be typecast in cookie-cutter romantic comedies,
Then the White House gets taken over, and Butler returns to his ass-kicking ways of old.
Olympus Has Fallen has resurrected Butler’s career and reputation as a believable and bankable ($30M weekend gross at the time of writing) action star. While he’s not quite on the level of a Tom Cruise of Will Smith, he’s certainly catapulted back to the level of someone like Jason Statham, not the best actor but someone available to crack a few skulls.
The plot of the film is one like we’ve seen in many movies before: Bad guys infiltrate American soil, take a leader hostage and attempt to negotiate with the government for ridiculous demands.
This time it’s North Korean terrorists manning a hostile takeover of the White House and holding the President hostage. They not only ask for counteractive nuclear launch codes (ones that would leave us vulnerable to nuclear attack), but also for troops to be withdrawn from the Korean border.
Butler plays Mike Banning, a former Secret Service agent who’s been reduced to desk duty at the Office of the Treasury. He sees the chaos ensuing outside of his window and uses his skills to take action, eventually becoming America’s last hope.
I got a Die Hard vibe from this movie going into it, and that stayed with me throughout. Banning is John McClane for the new generation, more tactical than the “cowboy” of old, but still as witty and with the same lack of concern for collateral damage. He talks wise with the terrorist leader throughout the movie, a lot like McClane did with Hans Gruber in the first Die Hard.
There is a great deal of action in this movie, and the violence certainly lives up to its R rating. You’re gonna want to call a baby sitter for this one. People get shot and blood flies (though not with Django Unchained velocity), knives get stabbed in throats, and there are more headshots than a Call of Duty multiplayer match.
Outside of the action, the movie falls a bit flat. Rick Yune, who plays Kang, the North American terrorist leader, is laughable at times, and almost sounds like a Saturday morning cartoon villain. Angela Bassett is also very forgettable as a Secret Service Director. Aaron Eckhart is decent as President Asher, but he could have done better.
The best parts parts of this movie, acting wise, are courtesy of Butler, Dylan McDermott and Morgan Freeman. McDermott plays a part that if disclosed will spoil a lot of the story, but does it very well. Freeman plays the Speaker of the House and has to take control when both the PResident and Vice President are incapacitated. Freeman’s character is likeable and easy to root for, something that probably speaks more to the actor than to the part he plays.
All in all, Olympus Has Fallen is a good action movie. It falls on the edge of camp often and is at times cartoony, but you’re pretty much guaranteed to have a great time at the theatre when you see it.
I give Olympus Has Fallen a 7/10. Go see it at a matinee, but if you’re an action movie fan, go see it at full price.