This is basically what the two Expendables movies tried so desperately to be but failed in replicating. It’s what Die Hard 4 and 5 couldnt even aspire to be. This is the ultimate callback to 90’s ‘Die Hard In A’ template movies spearheaded by Steven Seagal and Jean-Claude Van Damme back in the day.
From the opening minutes featuring a soaring soundtrack by Trevor Morris you know exactly what to expect. That particular type of patriotic action movie featuring stars and stripes, dialogue about not negotiating with terrorists and foreign villains with absolutely no redeeming qualities whatsoever.
The writers, Creighton Rothenberger and Katrin Benedikt, apparently wrote the script ten years ago and as an aspiring writer myself, I’m happy for these guys that they could finally see it sold and made into a feature film. I do wonder what the earlier drafts of the film were like though, and will give them the benefit of the doubt. I’m assuming being told to rewrite it by various people in the industry, ultimately hollowed the script of complexities and made it a more simple affair.
Populated by ventilation shafts, and dialogue like “I’m your only hope”, Antoine Fuqua’s take on Rothenberger and Benedikt’s ridiculous premise plays the whole thing straight, with no winking, which makes it all the more funnier. Sure there are moments of humour with Gerard Butler giving one-liners as he dispatches 10% of North Korea’s population with his bare hands, but it’s never satirical “we know how dumb this movie is” type humour, it’s more “we are 100% dedicated to transporting you back in time to the summer of 1995” humour.
It’s the kind of film that’s so bad that it goes back round and becomes good. Because it’s good at what it does. The action is shot relatively well, with a camera operated by someone who is not shaking while on crack-cocaine like the majority of Hollywood action film operators these days.
The incident propelling the premise is the actual literal invasion of the White House which honestly has to be seen to be believed. I could outline to you the sequence which involves a giant airship peppering hundreds of civilians on the streets of DC with bullets without mercy before a ground force explode their way into the most important building in the world with relative ease, but it would do the film discredit. It really is an outrageous bit of action-filmmaking that will end up on future lists with titles like “best white house invasions 2010-2020”
The cast are all consistent in their portrayal of actors acting as if they’re actors in an action film of the 90’s. Aaron Eckhart, not content with starring in the shitty Battle Los Angeles stubbornly continues his trend of picking hollow action films to appear in, playing the President with more or less the same kind of vibe he played Harvey Dent, the Noble Politician Not Afraid To Fight Back. He isn’t able to match Harrison Ford’s portrayal of the President in Air Force One, though he’s not even given the chance to beat up any bad guys.
Gerard Butler takes a break from shitty romantic comedies to provide cathartic violence on screen as the Fallen Hero, secret service agent Mike Banning, who tragically failed to save the life of the President’s wife prior to the North Korean expedition into DC. Unfortunately we don’t really get any decent conflict between him and the President, as realistically there was not much he could have done to save her anyway, and even worse from a script perspective, the President knows this.
The Koreans are spearheaded by the ever-reliable Rick Yune, whose crack-team of terrorists are suitably nasty buggers which gives the film real bite and menace. Butler, in turn, gives back as much as they do, and the film never shies away from extremely violent clashes between the two forces. The number of bloody headshots is probably in the three digit count, seriously.
If you approach this film as a throwback to 90’s action, you will honestly have a great time. It fully recreates the genre of another era faithfully. For anybody expecting anything else, well now you know better.