Friday, June 28, 2013

White House Down Movie Review

Channing Tatum & Jamie Foxx (r) in White House Down

Down for the Count

Everyone likes a good disaster movie once in a while: Call it a guilty pleasure. But what do you call White House DownRoland Emmerich's latest "stretch of imagination?" I came up with a few words, as I left last week's screening... Absurd, awful, ludicrous and perhaps even shameful. And those are just the ones I can say in mixed company. White House Down could very well wind up as one of the worst movies of the year... despite a purported $150+ million price tag and the advantage of going after Olympus Has Fallen.

Rotten Tomatoes Plot: The White House is under siege in this action thriller from Independence Day director Roland Emmerich and The Amazing Spider-Man's writer James Vanderbilt in this Sony Pictures release. Channing Tatum stars.

What’s Best: I gave this movie a failing grade, so don't expect many positives; but Tatum and Oscar-winner Jamie Foxx make an absurd, yet likable combo. Touching moments such as Foxx hitting Tatum in the head with a rocket launcher, or Tatum's 'What the hell are you getting in the back for?' when Prez Sawyer hops in a limo are worth a laugh.

What’s Not: There isn't one good performance during the 131-minute long runtime. Foxx makes an even worse President than Sledge Hammer (David Rasche) while Tatum stumbles through lines, as he tries to replace/update Bruce Willis' John McClane in Die Hard. Kudos for resisting the urge to blurt out, "Yippee-ki-yay, motherfu*ker" Maggie Gyllenhaal as a high-ranking secret service agent? Her gaspy voice 'I'm so, so sorry' could keep anyone away from her, or the person she's trying to protect. Speaking of voices, wait till you hear Lance Reddick as an ineptly over-the-top Colonel Janowitz. What ever happened to good acting?

But all that pales in comparison to the impossibly poor script (way to go, James Vanderbilt.) If you thought the security was lax in Olympus Has Fallen, you ain't seen nothing yet. I didn't think it was possible, but the guards are even more inept in this movie: I wouldn't hire these guys to protect a piggy bank, yet alone secure 'the safest house in the world.' Then there's the worst assembly of cliché-ridden villains ever assembled in one film. Normally talented Jason Clarke is a joke as mercenary #1; but even he can't touch Steve Zahn lookalike Kevin Rankin as a tattooed version of Vernon Wells' Bennett in Commando. Toss in a cancer-stricken traitor played by James Woods and the nerdy, quirky hacker (Jimmi Simpson) and it's no wonder this movie stinks.

Best Line: You have to look long and hard to find anything worth repeating, but Foxx delights with 'We've got some knives in the kitchen' when searching for weapons, and 'Get your hands off my Jordans!' during one of the movie's umpteen gun battles.

Worst Line: Take your pick. "The VP just puked on Air Force 1" or "I have to call my wife" immediately after someone gets sworn in as President work well for me; but I'll vote for Tatum's parting words to Sawyer, 'You've gotta go back and be President.' Ugh.

Overall: Literally thousands of bullets are fired in this garbled mess; yet not one of them manages to hit the script... sparing us 2+ hours of suffering and dismay. The ease at which a half dozen bad guys mow down what should be hundreds of highly trained Secret Service guards is downright insulting. I gave up long ago trying to figure out where Emmerich is coming from. He gets to blow up bits and pieces of the U.S. Capitol and the White House (in surprisingly unspectacular fashion) but spends no time at all in producing a plausible story (I doubt News Channel 8 would get to park its news truck directly behind a tank.) White House Down shamelessly copies Die Hard with no apologies... and no success either. Someone in the film describes what's happening as 'a shit show.' I couldn't say it better myself.

Grade: F (It was an D, until the film's most preposterous moment near the end. Hint: It involves a flag.) P.S. I take no joy in assigning such a low grade (White House Down is no worse than January's Gangster Squad, but at twice the budget.) When you spend that much money, you simply must have something to show for it.