Friday, June 28, 2013
White House Down (2013)
This entry in the category stars Channing Tatum as John Cale, a military veteran now working on a security detail for the Speaker of the House (Richard Jenkins). He's the classic character where he's had issues with authority, and has never realized his full potential. Wanting to make some changes and improve his life, he interviews for a Secret Service position at the White House, and takes his daughter Emily (Joey King) along. Why would he take his daughter, you ask? Well, they don't have a great relationship (shocker!), and it turns out she's a junkie for politics, so he figures the trip to the White House might begin to repair their relationship.
While on a tour of the White House, a group of mercenaries take over, killing all of the security forces and taking the remaining people as hostage. One difference here is that this time the threat is a domestic force, rather than a foreign one. It's not clear what they want, and even the mercenaries all seem to have different ideas of what the end goal is.
John is able to get loose in the White House and starts picking off some of the mercs. He eventually finds President Sawyer (Jamie Foxx, yes you heard that right), and attempts to get him to safety. John can't leave without his daughter though, so now you have the two of them running around simultaneously trying to escape, evade bad guys, and attempt to rescue John's daughter.
Olympus Has Fallen...er, um, I mean White House Down features just about every action movie cliche you could pull out of a hat. At times the story has way too much going on, too many subplots, and wraps them up way too neatly and quickly at the end. Every twist is telegraphed, sometimes simply by the people cast in the roles. The second you see Jason Clarke as a someone that's there to install a new sound system in the White House theater, you know he's really up to no good. You can't cast James Woods as the head of the President's Secret Service detail without that leading to something. Don't worry, I'm not spoiling anything. This all plays out very early in the film.
Here's the thing though: I actually had a lot of fun watching White House Down. Once the action gets going, it doesn't let up for an instant. There are great action scenes throughout the film. Director Roland Emmerich seems to have a knack for high-octane action that's so silly you can't help but still have fun with it. I'm not even sure if the overall silliness of some of these scenes is intentional or not. My favorite scene of the film features a chase on the White House lawn, where it basically looks like several cars doing donuts. It's ridiculous and hilarious, and everyone seemed to be having a good time with it.
The tone of White House Down is drastically different from Olympus Has Fallen. Where Olympus Has Fallen has some very brutal violence, and overall more serous tone, White House Down seems to go out of it's way to throw one-liners at you at every opportunity. Some work, some don't, and there's some pretty cringe worthy dialog at times. I'll give writer James Vanderbilt credit for trying either way.
This film could have been edited better though. Despite all the action, there are a few lulls here and there, and there's really no reason for this to be almost 2 hours and 20 minutes.
Channing Tatum manages to pull off another decent lead in an action film. I was a little iffy on him as first as his character seemed to be a little too much of a screw up for his own good, but once the action gets going, he carries himself well. Jamie Foxx is playing it pretty straight here, so he's not able to be as funny as we know he can be. He might have been trying a little too hard to be presidential though. The supporting cast is surprisingly strong, actually too strong for what they're given to do. Maggie Gyllenhaal outclasses the material here, as well as Agent Broyles (Lance Reddick). I really hope Reddick hasn't fallen into being type cast as "stern, military/law enforcement guy". Lastly, I was really impressed with Joey King. I've only seen her in a few small roles, but she really gets a chance to stretch here, and I think she's a young actress that's going to be one to watch for a while.
One weak part was John's ex, played by Rachelle Lefevre. She's playing it way too calm and emotionless for the situation they are in. I would expect a mother to be crying and screaming her head off the whole time knowing her ex-husband and daughter are inside the White House as all these explosions are happening around her, but she's way too calm. It really stood out to me as odd.
White House Down is a dumb, cliched action film. However, there are some great, crazy action scenes, and the film manages to be fun and entertaining. If you haven't gotten your action fix this Summer, give this a shot. If you go in with low expectations, you should have a good time.
2.5 (out of 5) Death Stars - Matinee-ish