The Real Die Hard 5
Coming out this weekend is “London Is Fallen”. The follow up to the surprise 2013 success, “Olympus Has Fallen”. So, what better way to kick off its release then to review the first film in the newly started franchise? The first film came out in the year where there were two big blockbusters about Washington being attacked by terrorists, The other being Roland Emmerich’s “White House Down” (which we will talk about another time) which looked like a much bigger and expansive movie. “Olympus Has Fallen” though beat them to the punch with this intense and brutal action film that is a call backs to action movies of the 1990s.
“Olympus Has Fallen” came out in just the right time period. Still in a period of time where urban terrorism is prevalent in the world’s mind, “Olympus” takes that concern cranks the adrenaline, blood, violence and macho action to heights that just wouldn’t exist in our own world; creating a film that is becomes stupid, ridiculous but all around entertaining. This film showcases a North Korean attack on Washington DC and by some sheer luck takes over control of the White House and takes the President hostage. One former secret service agent survives the attack and begins to fight back within the white house to stop the terrorists. No, it’s not John McClane, it’s Gerald Butler playing Mike Banning, a man trying to make up for his past failures.
Look, there is no getting around that the premise just wouldn’t happened (or at the very least in the fashion that it does). If you’re a viewer that craves realism then don’t watch this movie, you’ll have a heart attack by the halfway point of the movie. For action junkies of the 1990s this is certainly the movie for you. This feels right at home with the political action of that time period (like an “Air Force One”). With that though, this movie has all the weaknesses of a typical 90s action movie.
The movie is a bit generic. When I first heard about it I didn’t think it would be exactly “Die Hard in the White House” but that’s really what this movie is, Die Hard in the white house. This has, the roof top explosion scene, the meeting with the bad guy (and thinking he was a good guy), and it’s even got our hero communicating with outside help. This is pure “Die Hard”. But, in that this is also the most pure “Die Hard” movie we’ve gotten since “Die Hard With A Vengeance” and by far better than the most recent “Die Hard”, “A Good Day to Die Hard” (and probably better than whatever the upcoming “Die Hard: Year One” turns out to be). In this I can’t really complain too much about the similarities since there has been a slew of other films (that came out in the 90s) that copied it, “Under Siege”, “Speed” and “Cliffhanger”.
The backbone of the movie is the directing and the strength of the lead actor. Antoine Fuqua, of “Training Day”, “Shooter” and most recently “Southpaw” is largely the reason why this movie works. Fuqua is able to direct some gut retching and brass knuckle action. He brings a weight of brutality to the gunfights and the hand to hand combat. The attack on the white house is a thrilling sequence and these sorts of scenes keeps the movie very entertaining; even when it isn’t breaking new ground. Fuqua seems to thrive on creating something exciting on premises we’ve seen done to death before.
Plus Gerald Butler, as “300” has shown us, is a very appealing and likeable lead. He can throw out one liners, be believable in a fight and just be an all around bad ass. His character (like the movie) is clichéd; a former disgraced agent that failed to saved the person he was sworn to protect. It sounds a lot like “The Bodyguard” or even has shades of “In the Line of Fire”. However again through Fuqua’s direction and Butler’s prowlers it doesn’t matter if we’ve seen it before, it’s enjoyable and works here as well.
The movie is made up of surprising amount of strong actors. Aaron Eckhart (who should have been a big star after “The Dark Knight”) does a great job as the president (however I hate how weak he was written as a character). Melissa Leo seems to have forgotten she was in an action movie and give an intense performance. Meanwhile Morgan Freeman plays….well Morgan Freeman (that’s a role he never fails at). The villain (played by Rick Yune) is stereotypical and does the job of being the villain but is no Hans Gruber.
The biggest flaw in this movie, is not how dumb it can be and is not how it’s pretty much a rip off of “Die Hard”. it’s the visual effects. Some of the effects in the beginning are passable at best but as the movie wears on we are treated to some of the worst visual effects in a big budget action film this side of “Fantastic Four”. It’s hard to replicate its location of Washington DC because there is no way shape or fashion the filmmakers were going to get permission to film a large scale siege in front of the real white house. So, the visual effects were a must. However this movie cost 70 million dollars and I can only assume it went to the cast because the digital effects look horrendous. It really ranges from bad to decent. Never, does it look great. I always use this as an example but I will use it again. “District 9” cost 30 million dollars and that movie’s visuals look outstanding. How come this couldn’t?
Well if the budget went towards the cast I can’t say it wasn’t well spent because it is a solid and well acted cast. The movie as a whole is far from perfect and I do wish some things were given more attention, like perhaps adding a few new elements to the “Die Hard” formula and much better visual effects. But, all in all I can’t sit here and say I didn’t have a fun time with this movie. It’s fun, exciting and action packed. Is the story dumb? For sure, but does it know it’s dumb? Yes. I get the sense that mostly everyone knows that. It’s serious in the right spots but fun in others. I wish Gerald Butler’s character did get “beaten” up more because there is an air of invincibility to him. But, in the grand scheme of things there could have been far worse elements.