Monday, April 1, 2013
I have absolutely no idea how to begin this review. To process, properly, what I just sat through would take a super computer and a fleet of Stephen Hawkings.
First of all and let's get this out of the way, I, mostly, loved this film. This film has Gerard Butler in it and usually I can't stand the smug swaggering bell-end but in this he was alright. Yes there are a ton of people I'd have preferred in the role, of course Jason Statham springs to mind but, for once, I didn't want to reach into the screen and jab a ball point pen into Gerards stupid red puffy neck.
Butler himself produces this utterly absurd film along with enough other producers to form a producer only football team, with even a couple of guys on the bench tending to the half time oranges. Many of these, no doubt, suit wearing, money counting and grinning chappies, like Boaz Davidson and Avi Lerner, have worked previously on Rambo 4 and the 2 Expendables films and Olympus shares their over the top ultra violence, their moments of startling, seemingly realistic and out of place brutality but not really their hero moments, their star power or their humour. Recasting and re-scoring this film would have pushed it from loud, bonkers but enjoyable through to an absolute must see film classic.
I feel like I have jumped ahead of myself though. The plot, in case you weren't aware, is that terrorists take over the white house in an attempt to, well, start civil war in Korea? atomise the entirety of the United States leaving it a desolate, nuclear winter filled, pile of rubble? force the interior decorators hand and get them to remodel the entire house and paint it a fetching shade of mauve?
It, ultimately, doesn't matter, these are bad bad men, armed to the teeth who don't speak the language and there's only one man who can stop them. No, really, there really is only one man. These highly trained, exceptionally well prepared and dedicated terrorists have allowed for every single possible eventuality except for Gerard Butler. Well, don't worry, they'll know next time.
Playing like Die Hard meets Air Force One meets a feature episode of 24, the film is awash with joyous cliches and scenes you've seen a hundred times given a cursory going over. For example it starts at Christmas (action movies have to, you understand) and jumps forward to just after independence day (but of course it does!). The only real surprise here is how gory and brutal some scenes get. Having rewatched some 24 episodes recently it's remarkable how fun that show was while still remaining so utterly po-faced, deeply earnest and, yes, utterly ridiculous. Well that's sort of what we get here. Butler is most definitely a Bauer/McClaine clone but sadly without the charm of either of them, although he does get to rattle off a couple of pleasing, four letter word filled, one liners. It did mean though that on occasions I wished I was watching Kiefer Sutherland gruff whisper his way through the film occasionally stopping to torture a few crims and shout dammit a lot at a mobile phone.
Not that any of this is really a bad thing though. I LOVE Die Hard, LOVE 24 and LOVE ridiculous action movies that take themselves way too seriously, so while this is no Die Hard and no 24, it tried its damned hardest.
Also the whole film is completely weird to watch because although costing an actually, relatively respectable $70 million it also looks and feels entirely like a made-for the SyFy channel film. I am not sure whether it was the fairly laughable CGI, the wobbly sets or the TV lighting and sound but it leant the whole film a surreal quality because at one moment you're marveling at just the insane scale of the action, the extras, the violence and just how phoned in and old Morgan Freeman seems to be and the next moment you're thinking "wait, did Roger Corman have something to do with this?"
While it may sound like a moan, it's actually just another reason I loved the film.
Butler's supporting cast is a who's who of 'what the fuck are you doing in this movie?!' and a happy-to-see-you-sir Robert Forster. Nobody is particularly stand out and nobody is given a ton to do but they all do it well enough that you don't notice. Except Morgan Freeman who sadly looked old and played the whole film as if he was desperately unwell. Guess we'll have to see later this month in Oblivion if that was a 'character choice' in Olympus or just the product of age and the reminder of one too many Ashley Judd thrillers. Oh and talking about thankless tasks... Ashley Judd in this film.
The opening attack on Washington which is, obviously, the biggest set piece in the film and shitty CGI notwithstanding, is pretty great, pretty mind-blowing and actually pretty daring in the amount of bullet ridden bodies of innocents it piles up. Screw nuking the whole country, I want this bastard's head impaled on a pair of highly sharpened nose hair scissors just for all the fat, happy tourists and DC working stiffs they massacre in this section of the film alone. I honestly didn't know how to feel about it, I almost wasn't able to ignore the wanton death and just enjoy the action for actions sake, like I would normally but I also knew it was a silly film I was watching and none of this was meant to signify or mean anything except to eliminate literally everyone and leave our hero no choice but to, single handedly, save the child, save the country and save the presidency.
This odd and uneven tone between over wrought, chest thumping, B Movie Action and harrowing, dark, unpleasant violence was never more evident and problematic than in a scene where our main bad guy, the same dude who stupidly had diamonds in his face in Die Another Day, kicked and punched Melissa Leo's secretary of defense in to a purple pulp of blood spewing unpleasantness all while surrounded by a set that looked like it was left over from Star Trek The Original Series. It was a scene that, while completely justified by the terrorists plans, was maybe a tad too disturbing for a film like this. To off set this she could've fought back a little maybe.
One niggle on that point was that there were too few hero moments. As horrible as what they did to sweary Oscar winner Melissa Leo, if she had kneed him in the balls, slapped him round the face or bit his ankle or something we could've at least cheered on the fact she attempted to give some back.
The ending of the film feels straight out of a Jimmy Kimmel or SNL Spoof of action films and maybe pushes the cliche just one absurd step too far but luckily a hashtag joke just about almost saves it by saying 'yeah we know this is very very silly, please just come with us across the finish line, after all you've come this far, right?'
The problem comes, though, with the soundtrack and the obscene patriotism in the final moments. Yes the whole film is rampant with patriotism but nothing so unusual if you live here, they have giant American flags at shitty interstate gas stations for Pete's sake! but the film ends on such a cringe-worthy-Bill-Pullman-from-Independence-Day-speech followed by an almost sombre, serious brass and orchestral score that it makes you long for Argyle, a limousine and some bad 80s hip-hop. It doesn't help that throughout the film you want to keep yelling 'He's Scottish! A Scotsman is saving you!"
Lastly, to wrap up, I would say that if you like action, go see this film but go see it with low expectations and watch it with a sense of fun. Not to ironically laugh at it but to just enjoy a great throw back slice of disastersploitation. Yes the faces on the screen maybe earnestly grimacing to the point of rupturing but make no mistake, behind the burnt and tattered flag falling in front of a fake orange a purple dusk sky imagery, someone is having a ball making this old style actioner. If they weren't then they've failed at whatever their original intention was.
Oh and by the way, if you're a professional critic who contributed to the 47% negative rating this film gets on Rotten Tomatoes (while the fan critics give it a better 79%) you've failed at your job, AGAIN. Congratulations arse holes you are devoid of a sense of fun!
Roll on Roland Emmerich's White House Down, between that, G.I.Joe and this who is going to win the battle for taking over the White House movie of the year!?
-The Kick Ass Kid