The most recent Die Hard movie — which the record shows I reviewed a little more than a month ago, although I have no recollection of it — was terrible, but it turns out not to have been the worst Die Hard movie this year. That honour, for the moment at least (it’s only March!), belongs to Olympus Has Fallen, which is not, strictly speaking, part of the franchise at all. It is more a “school of Die Hard” production, in which a weary and battered law enforcement professional, severely constrained by time and space, fights off a ridiculous number of bad guys.
The bad guys in this case are the North Korean minions of a nasty superterrorist (Rick Yune), the setting is the White House, and the Bruce Willis understudy is meaty old Gerard Butler, playing a knocked-around Secret Service agent named Mike Banning. Banning was part of the president’s security detail until a tragic accident got him exiled to the Treasury Department. The same accident removed Ashley Judd from the picture, for which she can be both mourned and envied.
The square-jawed commander in chief (Aaron Eckhart) is held hostage in a bunker beneath 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, along with the vice president and some cabinet members, notably the secretary of defence (Melissa Leo). Meanwhile, in another location, Angela Bassett, Morgan Freeman and Robert Forster earn some money barking out orders and looking at screens full of intel. The body count is high, the action is mean and bloody, and digital reproductions of popular Washington landmarks take a terrible beating
All of which — and Dylan McDermott as a turncoat former colleague of Banning’s — is more or less what you would expect. And the director, Antoine Fuqua, is skilled at orchestrating both hand-to-hand mayhem and large-scale explosions. It may be too much to ask for anything more, but, on the other hand, if you’re going to go to the trouble of pretending to blow up the White House, you might also want to pretend that something was at stake.
Sadly, Mr Butler lacks the wit and the range to convey anything other than grouchy belligerence, and the script, by Creighton Rothenberger and Katrin Benedikt, seems intent on squandering opportunities to be clever or interesting. The motivations of the villains are fairly straightforward, and what seem like promising implications of an elaborate conspiracy are discarded.
But viewers who need a dose of bloated, moronic pseudo-patriotism right now may appreciate Olympus Has Fallen, at least as a stop-gap until the similar-looking White House Down opens in June. I’d say it can’t be worse than this, but who am I kidding?
Olympus has fallen (u/a)
Director: Antoine Fuqua
Cast: Gerard Butler, Aaron Eckhart, Ashley Judd, Melissa Leo, Morgan Freeman,
Running time: 118 minutes