Directed by Roland Emmerich
Expectations: Pretty low, but I like the leads enough to watch them in a dumb action movie.
To call White House Down a variation on Die Hard is an understatement. White House Down IS Die Hard in the White House, but while shameless rip-offs and recycling of storylines is usually a bad thing, White House Down is so much fun that I hardly cared that I had seen this same setup before. Besides… Die Hard is awesome. There are definitely times when the nods to Die Hard are too on-the-nose (such as using Beethoven’s Fifth Symphony instead of the Ninth, with no other context but as a Die Hard reference), but even these moments made me smile instead of groan. And that’s the key thing in a dumb action movie like this: the tone is light enough and the action is furious enough for all those little annoyances to simply roll off your back. White House Down is definitely a whole lot of dumb, but that never stopped ’80s action movies, and it shouldn’t stop you from enjoying one of the best modern “old school” action movies I’ve seen in a while.
As you might expect from the title and the poster, White House Down is about a terrorist capture of the White House and one man slinking around and messing up the bad guy’s plans. Doesn’t get much more simple than that. Unfortunately, because this is 2013 it takes a while to actually get to the plot that matters. Director Roland Emmerich spends nearly 40 minutes setting up the characters and the inevitable takeover of the President’s home. Modern films just can’t seem to get down to business so I expected this, but what I didn’t expect was that once the pin is pulled, this grenade of a movie explodes into pretty much non-stop action and thrills. It’s intense, ridiculous and incredibly enjoyable.
John McLane John Cale. He’s a good enough actor to hold down the dramatic moments and he’s skilled at comedy enough to sell the comedic touches. He’s also intimidating and buff enough to actually be believable as this type of character. The days of the buff ’80s dudes blasting their way through bad guys are long gone, but Channing Tatum reminds us that even in this modern “Anyone can be an Action Hero” age, nothing compares with a big buff dude. Between The Rock, Jason Momoa, Channing Tatum, and the success of the Expendables films, I hope that a large-scale revitalization of the true action genre isn’t too far behind. MOAR BUFFF DOODZ!
White House Down isn’t logical, but the best action films aren’t. It is incredibly fun and relentlessly entertaining. Highly recommended.