Over the past few years of doing these it has become apparent that the movie going audience craves stupid movies in the same way a 12 year old 300lb diabetic craves chocolate ice cream (if box office receipts are anything to base this on). And like a parent who feeds his obese child chocolate ice cream Hollywood could be accused of a certain amount of abuse by indulging in such base desires.
However, like the crack dealer who works down the street from my office everyone needs to get paid and Hollywood is no exception. I will say this movie is stupidly fun, but after a while for the thinking viewer the stupidity just keeps adding up until the weight of it compresses your brain into a diamond of perfect bitterness. For those of you who don’t bother to think I’m sure you will have a blast at this movie and the follow up Bachelor viewing party.
I was more than a little surprised at how stupid this film was. The director Antoine Fugua directed Training Day, one of my personal favorite films. As a fan of his previous work I am going to drop the blame for this on the two writers who have not a single movie (or TV, or YouTube video) credit to their names (production budget of $80,000,000 and they effectively hired two amateurs to write this thing. It is annoying).
I walked into this expecting a certain amount of flag porn (you know, so much u-rah! USA crap that uber right wing gun nuts like my cousin have to change their shorts after seeing it) and there was a certain amount of that, but what I really did not expect to see was the Secret Service portrayed as a bunch of moronic amateurs who barely know which end of the gun the bullets come out of. I have no real military training but even I know that charging forward in a group towards a machine gun was considered a bad plan even back in WWI. A lifetime of FPS video games has taught me the value of taking cover behind stuff in order to avoid turning into a bullet magnet, but somehow everyone except the main character seemed to feel either that taking cover was for wusses or that the Koreans were firing miniature nerd t shirt guns and they all wanted a Star Trek souvenir. Also it has been long established that we don’t negotiate with terrorists but in this film every person in the film was completely lacking in anything resembling a spine from the President down.
I was going to do an itemize list of the stupidity I saw in this film but that would be a big wast of time. Here are a few that really stick out, with a bonus science one. First off, it is laughable to believe that an unidentified cargo plane that refuses all hails would be allowed to come within sight of the White House. Also, fighter pilots are typically not dumb enough to both line up next to a potentially dangerous plane. I have to believe that Secret Service agents wear some kind of body armor, and that the front door of the White House is strong enough to withstand a single RPG. Those agents are well known for being extremely paranoid and highly trained, thus leaving it hard to believe that a bunch of strangers in the midst of an attempt on the Presidents life would be able to get the drop on them (not to mention know when to duck and take cover). I would like to think that anyone in line to become President would have the balls to not cave in to every demand that some terrorist made. I don’t know what kind of defenses the White House actually does have but I would be shocked to find out they didn’t have some kind of set of remote machine guns in case a group of commandos tries to take it out. In fact I would bet that a mere 40 commandos wouldn’t even make it across the front lawn. Finally the idea that there is a self destruct code for all our nuclear bombs that would allow for them to all blow up in the silos is laughable, and the idea that the North Koreans have the spies to figure it out is just dumb. Also, ordering a fleet out of an area and removing all the US troops in South Korea would take months, not done in an hour.
Let me take a moment and speak to my old friend science for a minute. Do you know what would happen if you threw a stick of dynamite into a nuclear bomb? OMG it would blow up! No, that’s not how they work. They aren’t just bigger piles of gun powder you can light with a fuse Wile E Coyote style. An A bomb is a precision instrument where the pieces of uranium have to come together with exact timing in order to reach critical mass. Any other way and all you get is a dirty bomb. You could pile all the nuclear bombs in the world in one place and line them with plastic explosive and all you would get would be a big radioactive mess. Also, what idiot designed a self destruct system that could be used to blow up the entire United States?
The bottom line is the implausibility of pretty much everything that happened in this film steadily bleeds the realism away leaving us to rely on our overworked suspension of disbelief. Essentially if we have a hard time believing all this could happen the enjoyment of the film really fades away. One of my favorite movie scenes in the last few years is the Nightcrawler attack on the White House in X2. I think the thing I like the most was seeing how cool and competent the Secret Service were. They were only foiled by mutant super powers beyond their ken. In this film they all look and act like mall rent-a-cops in suits. Also the villains plan goes out too far in scope, to the detriment of the tension.
Anyway, the story. Gerard Butler (Playing for Keeps, RocknRolla, 300. He’s Scottish for the record. Ironic that he plays the lead role in this super American film) is Mike Banning, Secret Service agent. He loses his position on the President’s (Aaron Eckhart-The Dark Knight, Battle Los Angeles, Thank You for Smoking) protection detail after dropping the First Lady (literally). He is now working in the Treasury. Meanwhile the President is meeting with the South Korean President when a cargo plane leisurely avoids all air defense in the most protected city in America and start shooting up the White House and Washington DC. The President is evacuated into an underground bunker where the Korean’s head of security (Rick Yune-the Fast and the Furious, Die Another Day, The Man with the Iron Fists) betrays them and captures him. He works for the North or something.
Anyway, it turns out that his team knows everything there is to know about the White House security and they take over all systems while his team of commandos tear through the Secret Service like Jason Vorhees going through a cheerleading camp. The Speaker of the House (Morgan Freeman-the Shawshank Redemption, the Dark Knight, Conan the Barbarian) is made temporary president (oh, yeah, the Vice President was hanging out with the Pres at the time of attack. No problems there I guess) and immediately caves in to every demand the North Koreans make including completely abandoning our allies the South Koreans to complete conquest by the North. Meanwhile Mike Banning has snuck into the White House and kicks seven kinds of hell out of every Korean he can find.
At that point it’s pretty much Die Hard in the White House. In fact the bad guys use exactly the same escape plan as they did in Die Hard. Banning sneaks around in the hidden wall passages and kills a bunch of guys one by one. I won’t completely spoil the movie but if you are of a patriotic bent expect to be pleasantly turned on.
The stars. It was fun, and if you are a Die Hard fan and don’t mind remakes than you will enjoy the action. Three stars. For the bad John McClane role he was handed Gerard Butler did decently with this role, and I liked the Korean bad guy. One star. This film won’t have you thinking you just wasted 120 minutes of your life even though on many levels you did. One star. Five stars total.
The black holes. The stupidity really ground on my enjoyment of the film like having a pebble in your 22 hole Doc’s and just not wanting to take the time to unlace them and get it out. One black hole. I was kind of offended at how incompetently the Secret Service was portrayed. One black hole. The fact that no one in this film had any spine and caved in at every opportunity made me lose respect for all the characters and therefore like them less. One black hole. The dialog was as schlocky as you could make it without actually cutting sound bites from the schlockiest films in movie history and pasting them together. One black hole. Some of the CGI and effects from the first half hour looked more than a little incomplete. One black hole. Total: five black holes.
A straight zero. I suppose if all you want is dumb action and consider a competent plot and dialog unnecessary options you will enjoy this. Otherwise a big “meh” from me. I suppose I am a little more disappointed than usual in that I thought going in this movie looked really cool and could have been exceptional. That will teach me to not get my hopes up. This could be seen on a big screen or small screen with no real loss of enjoyment. Big screen will mean the mediocre effects will be super visible. Date movie? Nah. There is a sort of love story (almost garnered another black hole for that one) but nothing in here is going to turn your date on. Bathroom break? Pretty much anywhere, really. There are a couple scenes towards the last half involving the nurse girlfriend working in a hospital that are pretty worthless. Go then if you need it.
Thanks for reading. I’m in LA on Sunday but will try to see something tonight. I’m kind of dying for some good sci fi so I’ll see what I can find. Follow me on Twitter @NerdKungFu. Post comments on this film or my review here, or send me off topic questions or suggestions to david@NerdKungFu.com. Thank again and have a great day.