Sunday, March 24, 2013
MOVIE REVIEW: OLYMPUS HAS FALLEN Is As American As Blood Pie
Propaganda action films reached their peak in the eighties, and never seemed to find their way back to the lofty heights set by the likes of Red Dawn. Funny enough that the recent remake of that movie was a diluted helping of weaksauce, hampered by studio tampering and the lack of a believable onscreen threat. So, it seems that director Sam Strange (under his pseudonym Antoine Fuqua) decided to rectify things by churning out the best "America, fuck yeah!" picture since Team America: World Police.
Olympus Has Fallen isn't going to win anyone the Oscar, or probably even be notably chronicled in the annals of cinematic history. That's too bad, since it's one of the most hedonistic bits of fun to come out in 2013. It's a very by-the-numbers kind of flick (all of your cliche expectations will be gloriously met), but what makes it work is the seriousness of everyone involved. No one is winking into the camera or phoning it in, which is surprising considering the talent that has been amassed. You'd figure that someone would be counting the hours until their paycheck, but if that attitude was present, it's nowhere to be found. Gerald Butler is one hell of a leading man, giving his most enjoyable performance since Reign of Fire (thought I was going to say 300, didn't you? I could have gone with Gamer as well) and I really hope this movie catapults him into the action man leading status he so rightly deserves. Once all of The Expendables crew have kicked the bucket, we'll be hard up for some kickass stars, and Butler proves with this film that he is more than up to the task. He can be both charming and funny for the ladies, and brutal enough for all of us testosterone junkies.
Everyone else does serviceable justice to their parts. You get some pretty standard (but nonetheless effective) turns from Angela Bassett, Morgan Freeman, and Robert Forster playing the officials in the "crisis room" scenes. They deliver exposition with just enough character that it never manages to slow the pace down. Rick Yune gives head baddie Kang the proper heft needed for this kind of role. It's almost good enough to forget he had anything to do with Die Another Day. ...Almost. Aaron Eckhart is reduced to mostly grunting throughout the picture, but the few scenes we get with him early on establish a very warm and likable character. He's not just another lame duck president character. I'd vote for him. Probably the only actor who gets shafted due to the constraints of the screenplay is Dylan McDermott. His ex-Secret Service agent feels like he's a rewrite away from being the real foil of the piece, and it's a shame because McDermott is doing some really entertaining work with the time he's given. Between this and his recent turn on American Horror Story: Asylum, McDermott should land a really juicy antagonist role. He's definitely got the chops.
But, most importantly for a movie like this, the action is what is mainly on trial. And Olympus Has Fallen has breakneck pacing in that department. People get cut down in swaths left and right, fight scenes are choreographed well, and explosions happen just frequently enough to keep you on your toes. There is some less-than-stellar VFX work early on (apparently due to the digital artists being rushed to completion), but it passes quickly enough that it doesn't bog the movie down, and there are enough old fashioned gunfight scenes to make up for the more bombastic bits. And if you like your action movies red and goopy, this one will satisfy your cinematic bloodlust. I was actually quite shocked at how much red stuff (digital and...analog?) was spilled throughout the running time. It's nice to see an action movie that isn't worried about getting gory, since most action affairs these days are fluffy PG-13 hero flicks.
When we look back at 2013, I think Olympus Has Fallen will be viewed as an incredibly early kickstarter to the summer action extravaganzas. And that's a good thing. It's certainly not a perfect film (there's some cheesy emotional beats and a bit of an anti-climactic climax after the final fight between the hero and villain), but it bypasses that kind of criticism by being pure uncut American fun. If we could churn out such patriotic popcorn diversions like this once a year, it would be a stronger loving 'Merica.