The North Koreans are back and they’re badder than ever. You’d think that those kooky Koreans would have learned their lesson after they got waxed in the Evergreen State in last year’s remake of “Red Dawn.” But no, Hollywood’s favorite Asian Horde is a stubborn and determined foe. In “Olympus Has Fallen,” a bunch of Korean commandos have their hearts set on kicking American butt somewhere a little more important than Spokane . . .
Okay, I’m kidding. Last time, the Korean bad guys were punking Washington State. This time it’s Washington, D.C. “Olympus,” you see, is super-secret-Secret-Service-speak for the White House. Given that most Presidents like to pretend that they’re Roman gods, the code name actually makes sense.
Before we can get to the shooting and other good stuff, we have to go through about half an hour of backstory. The run-up to the big event would be a great time to get a soda or use the facilities, because once the shooting starts you’re not going to want to leave the edge of your seat.
Gerard Butler’s a dedicated Secret Service man and the President’s BFF. Aaron Eckhart as President Asher is every bit as presidential as the last three actual occupants of the White House – maybe more. We’re introduced to Butler and Eckhart as they punch each other’s lights out and sweat all over each other in the White House boxing ring for a few moments of good, clean homoerotic fun.
But the real fun starts when an AC-130 “Spectre” gunship bristling with four M135 miniguns and just about all the tracer ammunition on Earth shoots up M Street, shoots down a brace of US fighters and circumcises the Washington Monument. The collapse of the Monument is clearly an homage to the collapse of the Twin Towers, which I found troubling.
With a well-timed and choreographed ground attack, Korean commandos swarm the White House like it was the Chosen Reservoir. They succeed in knocking over the People’s House in the most action-packed thirteen minutes in movie history. Thirteen minutes! Ridiculous. Most of us can’t get a pizza in thirteen minutes.
When the insurgents capture the President, the Vice President, assorted Cabinet members, the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs, a couple of hysterical secretaries and the South Korean PM, that leaves Morgan Freeman in charge of the country under a new FCC rule mandating that Morgan Freeman has to be in every movie. Complicating matters, the cute Presidential kid is hiding out somewhere in the bowels of the White House with the bad guys in hot pursuit.
Important officials are being very graphically skullcapped and the White House toilets are out of Charmin. Can it get any worse? Oh, yeah, it can. The bad guys blow up the West Wing, forcing several major Democratic contributors to sleep in tents instead of the Lincoln Bedroom.
Clearly, the Republic is doomed.
Not so fast. Gerry Butler is in the House. If the big Scotsman and a handful of Greek guys in clingy body armor could handle all the Persians in the entire world, then surely Butler can handle fifty Asian extras pulled off the MGM back lot. But can he handle Rick Yune as the most cold blooded movie villain since Hannibal Lecter?
The charismatic Yune plays Kang, a guy who would gladly eat Butler’s liver with a side of azuki beans and a nice soju. Named after a Klingon villain from the original Star Trek, the dude has a score to settle with both the U.S. and the script writers. Me, too. I don’t get why Hollywood has such a boner for a Third World country led by a chubby boy who looks like one of the Cosby Kids. Maybe Jeffrey Katzenberg yacked up a dish of bad kimchee one day and decided right then and there that Koreans were dangerous, but villainous jihadists were just so yesterday. Who knows. What I do know is that we can expect more Korean villains in our future, since Hollywood is the elephant’s graveyard of originality.
Speaking of originality, the plot is the bastard child of the original “Die Hard” and “The Sum of All Fears,” with a little bit of the book Memorial Day thrown in for good measure. Let’s just call the story derivative, and let it go at that. And so what? This is an action movie, it’s built on the tried and true action movie formula and it delivers.
You want guns? This flick has more weapons than the 1st Marine Division. Butler, Yune and assorted good and bad guys seem pretty handy with their SIG P229s. When Butler’s SIG runs out of ammo, he has no trouble persuading a bad guy to hand over his Glock 17, right after he kills him. Most of the Koreans wield Heckler & Koch MP5A3s with ACOGs to devastating effect, shooting up the White House with some first class home defense firearms. There are Remington 700s galore, since there’s always a Remington 700 in every action movie. I think it’s a law or something.
Aside from the aforementioned M135 miniguns on the AC-135 and another bunch of M135s mounted on the roof to approximate the look of the Dutch “Goalkeeper,” the real stars of the firearms portion of the program must be the FN M240Ds. The kids from Korea use them to plaster about five hundred cops and Secret Service guys. What happens is, just when you think that the good Caucasians are winning, the evil Asians roll up in garbage trucks. No, I’m not making that up. Garbage trucks. They swing open doors on the side of the trucks to reveal their FN machine guns, and for a second there I was thinking, “Who would throw away such nice machine guns?” That’s when they cut loose.
The violence is over the top. The special effects are beyond compare. The acting is as overwrought as the material demands. The 6’2” Butler is the sturdiest highlander since Sean Connery, and very believable as a guy who could kick Korean ass all the way across the 38th Parallel. He does a great job of channeling his inner Bruce Willis — the “Die Hard” version, not the old guy from “The Expendables” – right down to the wisecracks.
Olympus had a strong opening weekend, so it’s pretty clear that people are liking this movie as much as I did. Maybe it’s tapped into an anti-government undercurrent. Granted, nobody in the audience cheered when Olympus fell, but nobody seemed upset either. And while one movie does not a trend make, how about two? “White House Down” is due in theaters this summer and it has pretty much the same plot as Olympus. The director of “White House Down” directed “Independence Day,” which also featured the destruction of the White House by illegal aliens.
I know — Hollywood copying itself? Why, that hardly ever happens.
Model: Olympus Has Fallen
Length: 120 minutes
Price: $80 million – and you can see where every dollar went
RATINGS (out of five stars):
Style * * * *
The aerial scenes are impressive, the CQB scenes frightening and the acting is mostly strong. The frenetic pacing of the action will amp up your adrenaline faster than an armful of epinephrine.
Reliability * * *
Despite a snooze of a plot – bad guys are out to get us, and only a hero can save us – the movie succeeds on a visceral level.
OVERALL RATING * * * *
Don’t see “Olympus Has Fallen” if you’re turned off by violence, gore and frequent double taps to the coconut. The movie is rated R for violence and frequent bad language, so even though there’s no sex, you might not want to bring the kiddies. Otherwise, this movie is pure excitement and brilliantly filmed.