I was surprised back in 2013 when I heard that Olympus Has Fallen wasn’t too bad since it seemed like braindead action crap. I always like Aaron Eckhart and like Gerard Butler enough so it shouldn’t have surprised me, but it did but not enough to see it. Another thing that surprised me was that they were deciding to make a sequel coming out 3 years later. But with how surprisingly good the first one supposedly was, I was pretty excited going into my screening.
The plot is pretty simple as we pick back up with sitting US President Benjamin Asher (Eckhart) and his friend and closest Secret Service Bodyguard Mike Banning (Butler) in the midst of being President and Banning preparing for his first kid. Unfortunately, the Prime Minister of England dies and as such the President and many other world leaders need to go to London for the funeral. There is a lot of talk about the security concerns but all seems to be well enough…until of course it all goes to shit. World leaders start dying left and right as the city becomes a destroyed war zone. It’s up to Banning to defend the President until help arrives and to stop this terrorist plot.
So let’s just get the obvious out of the way: this movie is a dumb clichéd action movie. That is both for better and for worse with the dumb clichés being pretty fun in my eyes at many times, but the writing is just so stupid and terrible it totally hurts it. The action is well choreographed with competent CGI that plays up the cornball factor for sure, but kind of makes it fun. There is a sort of brutality to the action that makes me think of a film I saw at Fantastic Fest this year (sorry not reviewed) called Gridlocked that was an action movie with an abundance of visceral gore and action, though most of that was off screen here. I really enjoyed the stuff where it was just Banning on his own taking guys down because of the choreography and brutality here, with it only losing it when they go back to dialogue. The writing is stilted and campy at best really with forced one liners cliché dialog a lot. At worst it’s downright tone deaf and jingoistic with shouting about America being the best and being around for 1000 years. It feels out of place as it almost feels like it could sarcastic or in parody it’s so over the top, but its delivered dead serious. When the dialog comes in you just need to bear it to get to the next action scene.
Even with that dialog being a problem though, I will say the performances aren’t bad actually. Butler reminds you why he was so popular after 300 as he does have an innate charisma that holds you in the action scenes and does sell some of the campy puns for fun as well as handling the action quite well. Eckhart as well does well at feeling presidential and plays off Butler well at times with the comedy, even with his character feeling imbalanced between tough and overly concerned. I’ve liked Eckhart since Thank You For Smoking and there are still some signs of that snarky magnetic personality here, but again the writing does make him feel wooden at times because there’s nothing to work with. The movie also features Morgan Freeman returning as Vice President Trumbull and I have to say he is still very much so Morgan Freeman…and it feels like they use him to be just that. He does well at taking charge in his scenes as needed, but it’s also such a small part it almost feels unneeded, besides actually getting the most passable dialog. Overall, the skill and likability of the actors does shine through the shortcomings of the writing.
Now it’s time to just break down some of the more specifics this movie does wrong in my opinion, beyond the writing. It sets itself up for a fair amount of clichés, some that I like a lot and really expected from what they setup, but they never come to fruition. You may not think that’s a bad thing really, and generally it’s not, but these were ones I expected and would strengthen the story in my eyes for such a poorly written movie because it plays up to your expectations which are lowered by the other content. There’s also the matter of the worse clichés it gets into like the heroes making a few just really terrible decisions on what to do, and that is even with directly calling it out. One in particular stands out and I honestly can’t say it made sense why they would do what they did or act how they did when they were in that situation; clearly they were just moving the plot and that is all. Lastly, the thing that sets off the bad guys…well it doesn’t make sense how they’re there to do this nor did any of their characters feel all that strong, with one even being made a main one, only for a meaningless death later than it should’ve been. Seriously, this movie found as many ways to shoot itself in the foot with mediocrity as it could and took it.
I can say I honestly had fun with this movie at times and really liked the action even when CGI and clearly so, but the really dirt poor writing and clichés makes it so I can’t recommend it. Certainly if you’re bored and want to see an action movie, you could do worse but you shouldn’t spend more than matinee prices on it at all, and probably best off waiting for Netflix or like TBS to pick it up .