The Replacement Killers, Bait, Tears of the Sun, King Arthur, Training Day and Shooter are just some of the movies director Antoine Fuqua has made over the last 20 years. What do they have in common outside of his involvement? I FUCKING HATE EACH AND EVERY ONE OF THEM! He makes ridiculously stupid movies that are painful to watch; he’s like Uwe Boll with a huge budget. I know Training Day is a favorite of many and won Denzel Washington an Academy Award, but I felt it was one of the phoniest urban dramas I’ve ever seen. Everything about it was forced and mechanical with little going on that I could find even remotely entertaining outside of a few catch phrases (“King Kong ain’t got shit on me!”).
When I first started seeing the ads for Olympus Has Fallen I was curious. It looked like a fun action flick with a great cast of top tier stars. Then I saw who directed it… Antoine Fuqua. My expectations dropped like a pair of elderly man’s testicles. I figured I’d see it anyway, maybe on discount day at my local theater. Then a friend offered me tickets he won for a free advance screening in the city. I enthusiastically accepted because now I didn’t even have to pay to see it! Win/Win. Maybe. I tried as hard as I could to leave my bias at the door, but in the end this turned out to be one of the worst films I have seen recently.
Basically a group of rogue North Koreans, intent on having the U.S. pull out of their territory so they may resume their civil war on the South, take over The White House and hold the President (Aaron Eckhart) hostage until he gives in to their demands. An ex-Secret Service Agent (Gerard Butler) manages to infiltrate The White House during the assault and attempts to rescue the Commander in Chief singlehandedly.
To easily sum up this flick is to say that it’s a failed rip off of the original Die Hard set in the White House. The script copies every single beat from that much superior action film and manages to drop the ball each time. Sure the visual of seeing The White House getting dominated by a heavily armed military plane is a chilling sight, and the same goes for when the same plane crashes into the Washington Monument, but it’s executed with such ham-fisted incompetence that you can’t help but laugh at how ridiculous it looks. The writers make the U.S. military look like a bunch of morons that can’t take down a single plane over restricted airspace; that Korean behemoth easily makes its way over the Capitol and takes out half the population in a matter of minutes with ease. The movie is striving to be realistic, otherwise it would have gone for a more tongue-in-cheek tone, so everything that occurs during this extended action scene just comes off as silly and hokey.
The writers try desperately to make Gerard Butler’s Mike Banning come off as an everyman caught in an insane situation (just like John McClane), but we all know that a Secret Service Agent has received intense military training, so when he takes on these extremists you know he’s going to win no matter what so there’s no suspense to the fight scenes or shootouts. In fact, the scene where he rushes The White House lawn during the ground assault is one of the most ridiculous things I have ever seen because apparently he has the oft unheard of superpower that allows him to curve the path of bullets around him. As he runs to the building every single person around him gets mowed down by gunfire except for him. And he’s out in plain sight! Especially when he gets to the front doors; he’s completely exposed and baddies wielding 50 caliber assault cannons are annihilating Secret Service Agents everywhere except in the exact position where Banning stands. Every action scene is like this. Banning is made out to be invincible except when the script needs for him to be hobbled so he can have a fight with the main baddie that lasts for more than the 10 seconds it would normally take for him to kill this fool.
In the acting department everyone seems to be trying their hardest to make the cheesy script work, but they too are fighting a losing battle. Gerard Butler is putting his all into what I assume is his big attempt to be in a long overdue hit (the last movie he was in that didn’t bomb was 300), but he is given some of the dumbest lines I have ever heard (“I am going to put a knife in your brain!”, “Let’s play a game. It’s called ‘fuck off’. You go first.”) and a cheesy romance with the equally likable, but hammy, Radha Mitchell. Morgan Freeman gets shoehorned into the Presidential role once Eckhart is out of the picture and it’s a pretty silly moment when it goes down due to the dumb look on his face. Angela Bassett does her best as the Director of the Secret Service, but once shit goes down her role amounts to doing nothing but looking shocked and concerned. There are plenty of familiar faces among the cast, like Dylan McDermott, Melissa Leo, Cole Hauser, Robert Forster and Ashley Judd. Of course Rick Yune has been cast as the villain… again (see my review of The Man with the Iron Fists). He can’t seem to catch a break in Hollywood, and when he is cast as the protagonist it’s in something no one will ever see (Alone in the Dark II).
The special effects are downright abysmal as well. For a tentpole film this stuff is what you would normally see in a flick by The Asylum (Mega Shark vs. Giant Octopus, Titanic II). Everything looks like it’s straight out of a Playstation 2 game, from The White House to the airborne vehicles. All the blood is CG as well, which to me is a serious hate crime against the medium. At one point a character gets taken down by a hail of gunfire and as he falls the CG blood stains on his white shirt move around to different positions. It’s downright laughable.
All these issues I have mentioned are really just small potatoes compared to what I consider to be the two worst offenses I have with movies in general. This movie has both:
#1 is being manipulated into feeling sympathy for a character via torture. I had no idea Melissa Leo was even in this flick until the lead villain decides to use her as a punching bag to obtain a code he needs for his master plan. Her character had maybe one line of dialogue up to this point, therefore was not developed in any way. The villain just wails on her for a good 3 minutes and turns her into a bloody pulp. Is it hard to watch? Yes, it’s a woman being abused horribly. Did I care? Not really, because it was done as a cheap way to get a reaction out of the audience and create false empathy. I don’t buy in to that shit.
#2 is casting a well-known actor as minor protagonist/bit part that always signifies that he/she will end up being a/the villain. It happens in movies more times than I can count and I cannot stand it. For example take Cary Elwes in Kiss the Girls, Tobin Bell in Saw or even Liam Neeson in Batman Begins. It’s so blatant here that it’s insulting.
As a side note, I don’t know if it was a piracy measure required for the screening I saw, if lighting was optional when the filmmakers shot in the dark or if the theater was being cheap by turning down the brightness of the projection bulb, I couldn’t see a fucking thing for half the movie except random movement and gunfire. Everything was so poorly lit and dark that none of the action scenes made any sense because it was like watching the flick with a blindfold on. Cinematography fail.
When the movie ended a good third of the crowd I saw this with gave the film a standing ovation. The group I was with stayed seated with our arms crossed. It is not entertaining in the slightest, and I like some shitty movies. People cheered, laughed and gasped when they were told to. I did not. Not once. I found the whole production tiresome, hokey and lame. Director Antoine Fuqua seemed to realize that the script he was working with was crap and figured that if he hired a gaggle of great actors to take on the clichéd characters the problems might work themselves out, or they’d just help to cover up the larger issues. He failed spectacularly, which doesn’t surprise me in the slightest due to his track record (IMO). It’s chock full of anticlimactic moments (the resolution of the President’s son subplot), goofy scenarios (the way Banning jokes around with his co-workers) and overt audience manipulation (the opening scene) all set to a horrible soundtrack. Bravo sir. I will not watch another one of you films ever again.
I do not recommend for anyone to see this movie at all. Even though I saw it for free I felt ripped off for the time that was wasted in watching it. Don’t fall for the hype. It’s pure shit.
1 out of 5