White House Down
Director: Roland Emmerich.
Cast: Channing Tatum, Jamie Foxx, Maggie Gyllenhaal, James Woods, Jason Clarke, Richard Jenkins, Joey King.
TWENTY-FIVE years on from Bruce Willis's John McClane taking on a building full of baddies and quipping "yippee-ki-yay", the legacy of Die Hard lives on.
Not only did we have to put up with a terrible fifth movie in the series in this year, but the action archetype the original spawned continues to provide the backbone for new adventures.
The latest is White House Down aka Mr Die Hard Goes To Washington, where Channing Tatum is the white singlet-wearing one-man army battling a small but well-armed militia up to no good.
Tatum plays John Cale (even his name is close to John McClane), a former soldier-turned-US Capital Police officer who takes his daughter on a White House tour just as a team of bad guys decide to swoop in.
The terrorists blow up part of the building, take hostages and grab the US President (Foxx), with Cale the only man (out of an entire legion of Secret Service operatives) who manages to be a thorn in their side.
But can he save his daughter, the president, and the entire free world in time?
White House Down is cliched, dumb and utterly predictable ... but damn, it's awesome fun.
This is textbook action movie stuff of the "Die Hard on a boat/plane/train/White House" variety. It does everything you expect it to do, but it does it well.
It sets its characters up nicely, despite the over-reliance on stereotypes. Foxx is the kind of leader you only see in movies (ie. he's a great guy with morals and ideals) and Tatum is the "flawed" hero (ie. he doesn't respect authority and isn't a perfect dad), but at least the film takes its time to introduce its players and flesh them out, giving you someone to care about.
From the moment it detonates its first explosion, the movie is perfectly paced, spacing its action sequences, its important-people-talking scenes and its quieter character bits nicely throughout the lengthy running time. It keeps you interested in its cat-and-mouse antics and increasingly insane escapes, rarely giving you opportunity to let your attention wander.
Another advantage is the cast - with the likes of Tatum, Foxx, Gyllenhaal, Woods and Jenkins on the call sheet, a much-needed level of gravitas is added to proceedings. Tatum is a likeable hero who not only has the acting chops for the non-running-and-shooting moments, but this movie also proves he's a bona fide action star, just in case that was still in doubt.
Emmerich obviously relishes the opportunity to blow up the POTUS's house again, having done so in Independence Day (which gets a cheeky mention), and handles the action pretty well, even if the inevitable use of green screen stands out like the proverbial.
White House Down is not going to be on any "best of 2013" charts but it will certainly be on my "guilty pleasures of the year" list. It's gets unintentionally funny when Tatum dodges his millionth machine gun spray or survives multiple grenade explosions by hiding behind a lectern, plus the flagwaving ending is cringingly hilarious, but it's a quality piece of idiotic action. It's increasingly silly film, but it's deftly handled.
If it was a Die Hard movie, it would be the third best in the series (after the original and #3 of course).
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