Starring: Gerard Butler, Aaron Eckhart, Morgan Freeman
Directed by: Antoine Fuqua (“Training Day”)
Written by: Creighton Rothenberger (debut) and Katrin Benedikt (debut)
Yes! Yes, Gerard Butler, “Olympus Has Fallen” is exactly the kind of film you should be making nonstop! Enough with the horrible romantic comedies. They absolutely do not work with you in the lead, and society is general is worse off for having to experience them. Stick to action and we’ll all be golden, okay? Even if the screenplay is utter crap. We can deal with that as long as there are some cool explosions and fistfights and such.
In “Olympus Has Fallen,” Butler stars as Mike Banning, a dedicated Secret Service agent tasked with protecting President Asher (Aaron Eckhart), First Lady Margaret Asher (Ashley Judd), and their young son Connor (Finley Jacobsen). After a terrible accident leaves Banning disgraced, he is moved from the President’s detail and reassigned to a desk job at the U.S. Treasury. Eighteen months later, when a rogue C-130 gunship soars over Washington, DC, mowing down citizens and law enforcement alike in a hail of bullets, Banning springs into action. The target is the White House (code named Olympus). When the building is taken by foreign terrorists, Banning slips inside and becomes the last hope for saving President Asher–and the nation itself.
If you aren’t the kind of moviegoer who can sit back and let the testosterone and jingoism of a political action film just wash over you, then “Olympus Has Fallen” makes an easy target for scorn. The script from first-timers Creighton Rothenberger and Katrin Benedikt is overflowing with action movie cliches and is unashamedly aping “Die Hard.” Butler delivers another meathead performance, complete with an American accent as shoddy as the special effects on display. And Morgan Freeman (as the Speaker of the House pushed into action when both the President and Vice-President are held captive) is clearly phoning it in after having played roles like this seemingly dozens of times. Throw in unstoppable super-weapons, genius computer hackers, and a sneering foreign villain along with everything else and you’ve got the recipe for Generic Action Movie #876, right?
Well, yeah. But in spite of it all, it still works. The “what if?” scenario of the White House succumbing to a terrorist assault is juicy stuff, and it’s hard to get tired of Butler tossing out curse-laden one liners while stabbing bad guys in the brain. And as the Secretary of Defense, Melissa Leo is having a blast as she gets to spit foul-mouthed venom in the face of her captors. When she’s dragged down a hallway screaming the Pledge of Allegiance (as corny as it may be), it’s hard to not be on the edge of your seat waiting for Butler to come to her rescue and put a bullet in someone’s face.
Starring: Richard Gere, Don Chedle, Ethan Hawke
Directed by: Antoine Fuqua (“Shooter”)
Written by: Michael C. Martin (debut)
Someone really needs to start a Save the Squibs campaign in Hollywood. Those tiny little explosive devices used in the movies to pop packets of fake blood and create the effect of someone getting shot are being wasted. While squibs are fairly cheap in comparison to other special effects, the cost can add up if you use them as gratuitously as director Antoine Fuqua does in his latest dirty-cop film “Brooklyn’s Finest.” It’s a violent, mind-numbing, and generic cop flick that kicks down the door with guns blazing and has nothing new to say.
Despite the overemphasis on the brutality of life in the hood, the blood spurting is not the real problem. Fuqua filled Denzel Washington with bullet holes at the end of his Academy Award-winning performance in “Training Day” in 2001 and that violent scene was shot to perfection. What doesn’t work in “Finest,” however, is Fuqua inability to detach himself in any way from first-time screenwriter Michael C. Martin’s horribly clichéd script and his failure to differentiate intense performances with overacting.
In “Finest,” three New York City police officers play the pawns of this wannabe gritty drama. Richard Gere (“Nights in Rodanthe”) is Eddie, a veteran cop with an alcohol problem who is only a week away from retirement. You get a sense of who he is when he rolls out of bed and into a bottle of Jack. He’s also in love with a prostitute, but the script doesn’t really explain why. Don Cheadle (“Traitor”) is Tango, an undercover cop who is caught up in the criminal underworld and hope he can soon transfer to a cozy desk job. His last assignment: to put the sting on a criminal friend (Wesley Snipes) who just happened to save his life. Ethan Hawke (“Training Day”) is Sal, a crooked cop who starts stealing drug money so he can buy a new home for his growing family.
As Gere, Cheadle, and Hawke hobble through the motions, Martin’s haphazard story structure quickly falls apart before it even begins. If there is supposed to be some kind of statement about the injustices in black America or how faith can’t always heal a reckless soul, Fuqua and Martin miss the mark. “Finest” becomes a hopeless narrative sew together with weakly-written characters with nothing to live for and no reason to change.
Without any emotion invested in any of the officers, there is not much to be concerned over when bodies begin to hit the floor and Fuqua starts thinking he is Francis Ford Coppola and Martin Scorsese. Even when his stock was at it’s highest nine years ago, he still didn’t come close.