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Olympus Has Fallen

Gerard Butler is an army of one in this problematic action flick

Secret Service agent Mike Banning (Gerard Butler: Movie 43) was a beloved guardian of President Asher’s (Aaron Eckhart: Erased) family. When danger struck, his snap decision lead to tragedy and exile from the personal protection detail.
    Now in a dead-end job with the Treasury, Banning gets his chance at redemption when a team of North Korean radicals infiltrate the White House — code named Olympus — and take the president hostage. The terrorists wipe out the Secret Service, mow down the army and set up shop in the president’s super-secret bunker, where they have access to the nuclear launch computers. They promise to take the president’s life unless the U.S. government pulls troops out of the Korean DMZ.
    Now the only living person on the upper floors of the White House, Banning must save the president, keep North Korea from annihilating South Korea and stop a nuclear disaster.
    Can Mike save the free world? Will the president survive? How high will taxes have to go to pay for all the structural damage to the nation’s house?
    Olympus Has Fallen is Die Hard in the White House. It owes so much to the seminal action movie franchise that it’s amazing Butler’s name was changed to Banning. Plotting is predictable, dialog is dismal and some CGI shots of a devastated D.C. belong in an Ed Wood film.
    The movie also uses one of my least favorite plot devices: making everyone but the hero a drooling idiot. Somehow the whole of the secret service, Air Force and the U.S. Army are embarrassingly bested. Yet Mike takes out the terrorists while sustaining only minor flesh wounds.
    Director Antoine Fuqua (Brooklyn’s Finest) is no stranger to the action genre. To his credit, he makes a decent show when the bullets start flying. This blood-spattered affair earns every bit of its R rating. Fuqua also does an excellent job of keeping the action contained. Like Die Hard, the film draws most of its suspense from the closed quarters Mike must navigate.
    Fuqua performs a small filmmaking miracle by getting a credible performance out of Butler, who shows an emotional range and physical prowess that has long been missing from his screen work.
    Oddly, Fuqua doesn’t bring out the best in the more accomplished members of the cast. Morgan Freeman seems to be restraining himself from rolling his eyes as he speaks. Eckhart pouts in the face of terrorist threats. As the Secretary of Defense, Melissa Leo gets the worst of the characterizations, screaming shrilly one moment and whimpering about her hair the next.
    Olympus Has Fallen won’t be racking up awards, but Butler’s performance and the gritty action make for popcorn-munching entertainment. It’s a better successor to the Die Hard franchise than Live Free or Die Hard, featuring better action sequences and a better performance from its leading man.

Fair Action • R • 120 mins.