While we had an official Die Hard sequel this year with the terrible A Good Day…, White House Down is a better and more natural successor to that perfect action film, if not a straight-up rip-off.
Director Roland Emmerich and screenwriter James Vanderbilt cram in and lean on so many action movie clichés that you wonder if it’s not just a game they’re playing. Our hero is John (of course), a divorced, absent father, who finds himself in the wrong place at the wrong time when a group of white supremacists and ex-CIA operatives take over the White House with the ease of a cornershop robbery. John’s there after a failed interview for the Secret Service, accompanied by his unusually smart pre-teen daughter, who spouts expositional info that will later prove important. Soon he’s separated from his daughter, and clad in a signature McClaine white vest, must rescue his daughter, save the day and prove to her he’s a hero.
The twist comes in the …With a Vengeance-style mismatched pairing of cop with citizen, but the citizen is the Commander-in-Chief himself – Jamie Foxx as President James Sawyer, a thinly veiled Barack Obama. They must take on the bad guys (whose plan obviously isn’t what it seems), crawl through elevator shafts, and have discussions about fatherhood while tending wounds.
Action movie bingo anyone? Computer hacking scored to Beethoven? Check. Water-soaked fist fights? Yep. A seemingly innocuous object that will prove pivotal later on? For sure. Any maintenance guy can walk into any secure area? Of course. A countdown that lasts an eternity? Absolutely. Only one week left until retirement? You bet.
There are fun set-pieces, the armoured car chase around the lawn being the stand-out, but each is more ludicrous than the last, to the point where Indiana Jones dodging a blast in a fridge looks realistic. Foxx and Tatum spend too much time apart to build on their promising rapport, and the talents of the supporting cast, including Maggie Gyllenhaal, Richard Jenkins and James Woods, are underused. But Tatum proves to be the go-to-action star, able to handle the comedy as easily as the physical side, all why sporting a look that shows he knows the ridiculousness of it all.
What often makes a movie really bad is when it doesn’t try, happy to settle for mediocrity, and while White House Down can never be said to be smart or original, it does know what it wants to be and commits fully, whether in terms of explosions or one-liners and stupid deaths. It’s too long and a dumb movie, but never an objectionable one. A stupid summer jaunt that should be thought of like fast food, enjoyable while consuming but ultimately cheap, disposable and forgettable.
White House Down will be released across Australia tomorrow September 5th.
WHITE HOUSE DOWN
Directed by: Roland Emmerich
Written by: James Vanderbilt
Starring: Channing Tatum, Jamie Foxx, Maggie Gyllenhaal
Released by: Sony Pictures