The action genre has most certainly seen better days. With disappointing attempts such as A Good Day to Die Hard, these flicks are definitely hurting. Hollywood's major studios appear to be holding onto most of the genre's more entertaining features until the summer. While these movies generally aren't very thought-provoking, these popcorn flicks allow viewers to experience escapism. Audiences leave their brains in the lobby in order to see huge explosions and an abundance of fast-paced violence. United States distributor FilmDistrict is bringing director Antoine Fuqua's Olympus Has Fallen to the big screen with the intention of drawing genre fans into the cinema. Even though I'm an action fan, my expectations were set fairly low for this motion picture. After getting the chance to see it, I'm glad to report that this flick is rather entertaining.
After a devastatingly tragic accident, Mike Banning (Gerard Butler) finds himself wanting nothing more than to return to his old job. As a former Presidential guard, he wishes to do what he does best: protect the President at all costs. A terrorist militia attacks the White House and kidnaps President Benjamin Asher (Aaron Eckhart) along with other important government officials. Kang (Rick Yune) is the head of the operation, as he keeps the crucial U.S. figures hostage in the bunker of the White House. Banning is the nation's only hope for rescuing President Asher and ensuring the safety of the United States citizens. He must utilize all of his fighting skills and inside knowledge if he wishes to prevail.
Olympus Has Fallen doesn't give a lot of attention to the screenplay, which is a good thing. The premise isn't particularly original, but it's interesting enough to carry these characters along. Screenwriters Creighton Rothenberger and Katrin Benedikt kickstart the plot with the tragic accident, but quickly fast forward years in the future. It doesn't take very long until the terrorists begin attacking the White House and Mike Banning quickly follows the sound of gunfire. You'll easily be able to predict nearly every plot point for the remainder of the running time. However, the film continues to alternate between focusing on President Asher in the hostage situation, Banning fighting through the hallways, and Speaker Trumbull (Morgan Freeman) commanding the military to ensure the officials' safety. They're all necessary perspectives, but the scenes that take place within President Asher's bunker are the least intriguing. The dialogue constantly removes the tension created from the previous scene.
Kang and his subordinates are stereotypical antagonists that couldn't possibly be more one-dimensional. None of them appear to have personalities. The majority of the feature's clichés come from these scenes. However, once we're able to return to Mike Banning, the picture kicks back into high gear. None of the filmmakers even take time to focus very much on Banning as a person, but it isn't too big of an issue. He's constantly in communication with Speaker Trumbull, as they swap knowledge and figure out what they need to do next. The conversations shared between them are probably the best you'll find in the entire film. Despite the horrifying situation Banning is in, he makes jokes on multiple occasions. Even though a lot of it is typical action one-liner fodder, some of it will receive some chuckles. With the gunfights as intense as they are, the comic relief is certainly fitting.
Toward the end of the motion picture, Olympus Has Fallen is heavy-handed with its patriotism, which it doesn't shake until the movie is over. Fuqua takes it a little farther than he needed to. However, the numerous comparisons to the Greek and Roman mythology are incredibly fitting. It would have been interesting to see how this aspect of the flick would have turned out if it received a stronger focus. Even though the screenplay is incredibly thin, that doesn't stop this violent popcorn movie from delivering quite a bit of entertainment. The running time is around two hours, but it feels much shorter than that. While some genre pictures can drag, this one doesn't wear out its welcome.
The script might not be strong, but the performances are convincing enough. Gerard Butler is quite suitable in the role of Mike Banning. He's an amusing action star, especially when he's delivering his one-liners. Aaron Eckhart is convincing as President Benjamin Asher. He definitely comes across as a respectable figure. Morgan Freeman is the absolute perfect man to play Speaker Trumbull. His interactions with the rest of the cast are simply the best this picture has to offer. Rick Yune is Kang, the head of the terrorist group. Even though his character delivers the most amount of clichés, he's a believable villain. He could have been a lot better if he had material that provided him with a little depth. Dylan McDermott, Angela Bassett, and Melissa Leo are rather decent in their supporting roles.
Director Antoine Fuqua made Olympus Has Fallen with a much smaller budget than one would imagine the filmmakers would need in order to make a feature such as this. Unfortunately, the raid of the White House is a bit shoddy. The CG-effects need a lot more work through the daytime scenes. The further you get into the running time, the darker the colors become. The cinematography is so incredibly dark that it hides the effects that would look mediocre. However, the shoot-outs and the fistfights are well-executed. It's a lot of fun to watch Gerard Butler wait for the enemies to split up and take them down one by one. Fuqua doesn't shy away from the violence, as this is clearly an R-rated flick. When Olympus Has Fallen pushes into the bulk of its fights, audiences will find themselves immersed in the sequences.
Those who are tired of the PG-13 rated action flicks will find the R-rated violence to be refreshing. This will definitely appeal to older audiences who don't mind the excessive ferocity. While it isn't outstanding, it keeps your attention from start to finish. In fact, it feels substantially shorter than what the actual running time would indicate. This movie is problematic, as most popcorn flicks are, but this will surely satisfy those craving an action-filled cinema experience. Olympus Has Fallen is a satisfying movie that understands what it is, as well as what it's aiming to achieve. It ultimately reaches its goal of keeping viewers entertained throughout. Recommended.