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Movie Review

‘Olympus’ wears its red, white and blue heart on its sleeve

By Rob Rector | Mar 31, 2013
Morgan Freeman and Aaron Eckhart star in "Olympus Has Fallen."

Olympus has Fallen feels as though it was written by a bald eagle clutching an apple pie in one talon, a baseball in another, while ensconced in an American flag as it soars over majestically purple mountains squawking a John Philip Sousa tune.

In fact, I’m surprised theaters are not requesting audience members remove their hats and place their hands over their hearts during screenings of this film.

Yes, it wears its red, white and blue heart proudly on its sleeve to almost laughable levels, but darned it if it does not pack a number of absurdly entertaining moments that are as proficient and engaging as they are simple and silly.

Playing like “Red Dawn’s” older brother, “Olympus” imagines a rather elaborately preposterous scenario in which a swarm of Korean terrorists seizes the White House with the presidential staff inside, as they intend to level the U.S. with its own nuclear capabilities.

But there’s one warhead they cannot control: ex-Secret Service agent Mike Banning (played by Gerard Butler), a boxing buddy to the commander in chief himself (played by Aaron Eckhart) who is the only one who can put an end to the madness. In the film’s prologue, we learn that Banning was reassigned as a bureaucratic paper-pusher after a security detail left the president’s wife at the bottom of a river.

And even though he’s been reassigned blocks away from the Oval Office and there are countless people getting shredded by CGI-enhanced gunfire everywhere, Banning is able to snake his way past all the mayhem unscathed and enter the White House through its front door, demonstrating more acts of derring-do and performing more creative kills than a “Mortal Kombat” game.

Butler, the poor man’s Russell Crowe, is essentially “300’s” King Leonidas with a Bluetooth and a tie. He is an unkillable machine who can commandeer almost any computer program, but scoffs at having to use the word “hashtag,” because if he knew what that was that would make him, you know, nerdy.

But “Olympus” is the kind of film in which everyone knows how to fight as though they just stepped out of a UFC ring ready for more (except, of course, the Korean enemies, who all are skilled in the martial arts, because that fits within the film’s paper-thin characterizations).

It’s the kind of film in which, when the secretary of defense (poor, poor Melissa Leo) is dragged away by terrorists, she boldly recites the Pledge of Allegiance.

It’s also the kind of film that introduces us to the fine art of “skull stabbing,” which is apparently a skill Banning has earned more than his share of merit badges for.

Don’t enter looking for the shadings of the more skilled “Air Force One” or “Die Hard,” for you will be resoundingly disappointed. It helps that director Antoine Fuqua was able to roll in some very solid names to fill out the non-stabbing moments, including Morgan Freeman as secretary of state, Angela Bassett (looking as gorgeous as ever...please give this woman more lead roles!) as Bennett’s new boss, and Robert Forster in the military man role R. Lee Ermey is usually handed by sheer default.

It’s all so cornball and over the top that it seems as though there is no way anyone in front of the screen thought they were making anything more than a flag-wavin’, truck-drivin’, Bud-guzzlin’ good time and decided to ride it all out to the end. It dutifully presses all the right buttons and will undoubtedly please those who have no qualms about letting their disbelief fall along with the iconic structures in “Olympus.”

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