Burn­ing down the house

The Gold Coast Bulletin - Play Magazine - - MOVIES -

F you see just one ter­ror­ists-takeover-the-White-House thriller this year, make it White House Down.

Even if you saw Ger­ard But­ler’s dour and bloody Olym­pus Has Fallen, which has a lot in com­mon with White House Down, you owe it to your­self to check out Roland ‘ 2012’ Em­merich’s preachy, goofy, over-thetop take on Die Hard at 1600 Penn­syl­va­nia Ave.

From the earnest but earnestly funny pres­i­dent in jeop­ardy (Jamie Foxx) who doesn’t like bad guys yank­ing on his sneak­ers (‘‘Take your hands off my Jor­dans!’’) to the eye-rolling im­age of a child hav­ing a Les Mis­er­ables big-flag-on-the-bar­ri­cades mo­ment, White House Down is a corker – real com­pe­ti­tion for Fast & Furious 6 as the dumb­est fun you’ll have at the movies this year.

Chan­ning Ta­tum is Cale, the war vet and cop who can’t per­suade Mag­gie Gyl­len­haal to let him in the Se­cret Ser­vice. Cale has to con­tent him­self with guard­ing the Speaker of the House (Richard Jenk­ins) and call­ing in favours to get his daugh­ter (Joey King) a White House tour.

Then we see who Em­merich cast as the head of the White House Se­cret Ser­vice de­tail – James Woods. There’s on-the-nose cast­ing, and then there’s cast­ing Woods as a po­ten­tially volatile vil­lain – too on the nose.

We go through the same Olym­pus has Fallen hy­per­pro­fes­sional mer­ce­nary as­sault on the var­i­ous se­cu­rity agen­cies that al­lows bad guys to crash into the White House. And we see Cale, the guy not good enough to get into the Se­cret Ser­vice, charge to the res­cue – of his daugh­ter, the pres­i­dent and the world.

Th­ese ter­ror­ists, who never miss un­til they start shoot­ing at Cale, are glib.

‘‘You just killed the Sec­re­tary of De­fence!’’

‘‘Well, he wasn’t do­ing a very good job.’’

Ni­co­las Wright plays a scene-steal­ing White House tour guide who some­times in­ter­rupts the may­hem to share a lit­tle White House lore, or lec­ture the bad guys on the price­less arte­facts they’re wreck­ing. Em­merich makes sure there’s an In­de­pen­dence Day joke, and if that’s too sub­tle, he blows up the Capi­tol. Shared plot aside, White House Down does stuff Olym­pus Has Fallen couldn’t af­ford to.

All of which un­der­cuts the script’s lec­tures about the ‘‘mil­i­tary in­dus­trial com­plex’’, the mili­tia move­ment, the turf wars over pres­i­den­tial suc­ces­sion and the like.

What­ever mes­sages they want to shoe­horn in tum­ble aside in a bliz­zard of bul­lets, bombs, mis­siles and jokes. This is a pop­corn movie, with an ad­e­quate hero, a com­i­cal pres­i­den­tial side­kick, a pass­able vil­lain and too many dead­lines, plot­lines and punch­lines to ever al­low it to turn giddy.

But at least they were go­ing for giddy. As Olym­pus taught us, play­ing this sort of as­sault with a straight face is down­right dispir­it­ing. You kind of need ter­ror­ists of­fer­ing their buz­z­cut leader a slice of his re­tire­ment cake to set the tone: ‘‘No, I don’t want cake! I’m di­a­betic!’’

White House Down opens to­day.

White House Down.

I

(From left) Nic Wright, Joey King and Chan­ning Ta­tum in a scene from

Roland Em­merich

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