'Olympus Has Fallen' falls flat

“Olympus Has Fallen” is a waste of an idea that would have made for a wonderful dramatic film.

I wanted to like this movie, but it embraces elements that I could not connect with. The plot was torn right out of a “Call of Duty” video game and forcefully uses humor that feels unnecessary and oddly placed.

Obviously this film was meant to be a “Die Hard” in the White House type movie, but something doesn’t work. I would venture to guess that it’s the nature of the location that will make viewers uncomfortable. “Olympus” also embraces its restricted rating with all guns blazing and violence inherently present. The “Die Hard” films are certainly violent, but not to the point of close-up stabbings and gun shots. This obsession with face-to-face violence is crippling action movies that used to be a good bit of fun. When writing this I still get a retch in my stomach recalling the utter violent chaos on the screen.

Director Antoine Fuqua (“Training Day”) never seems confident in what his film is. There are moments of intense drama that work well and echoes the power Fuqua had behind the camera with “Training Day.” Unfortunately, where Fuqua undoubtedly loses audiences is when he has fourth-wall breaking moments with his hero, Gerard Butler. Butler’s cocky behavior and dialogue would have worked better if Fuqua wouldn’t have embraced the drama as much. Butler’s mocking dialogue with the lead villain would never have worked in a real strategic takeover of the White House. A military response might have had less charm and more focus.

Butler is entertaining enough, but would have been better placed in a film that didn’t hit quite so close to home. Fuqua does deserve recognition for that at the least, because a film hasn’t made me this uncomfortable with death and destruction in a long while. Fuqua does an impressive job recreating the famed American landmark and then destroying it piece by piece.

Action and direction aside, my biggest problem with this movie is the poorly used actors. Morgan Freeman and Melissa Leo are completely misused for having the power of camera that they naturally do. Leo especially deserved better than this after receiving an Academy Award for best supporting actress in “The Fighter.” She does a good job as the Secretary of State, but the role could have been played by any throwaway actor. Freeman is also good in his role, but this man has had far too many bit roles in big action films. His acting prowess demands more leads and that is no more apparent than in “Olympus Has Fallen.”

The best acting in the film comes from Aaron Eckhart as the President of the United States. Eckhart commits to the role entirely and his presidential stature is apparent. Similarly to Leo, I think Eckhart deserves a better film to stretch his acting muscles in. I would have loved to see these three actors in a more dramatic film set in the Oval Office. I think they would have been excellent, but I can see that Fuqua wanted to bring some acting heavyweights to provide more legitimacy to this heavy action film.

There are things that work about “Olympus Has Fallen,” but it’s a very egotistical piece with odd humor, bloody action, and poorly used veteran actors.

Patrick White

Movie fan Patrick White doesn't spare anyone's feelings when deciding if the latest Hollywood offering is trash or treasure. Catch his reviews on the latest theater and DVD releases in Saturday's paper.

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