Succinctly described as “Die Hard” in the White House, this is one of two movies on the same subject competing for your movie dollar. First out of the gate from Director Antoine Fuqua (Training Day), and somewhat handicapped by a smaller budget, comes Gerard Butler as troubled Secret Service operative Mike Banning.
Mike is having a bad run, following his rescue of the President but loss of the first lady in an earlier incident. Mike has been sidelined into the backwater of the Treasury department, albeit still armed to ensure those paper clips are kept in order.
President Benjamin Asher is the loving husband, father and all round good guy, quite happy to box and spar with his security detail and look after his movie moppet son. Eighteen months later he has gone through the grieving process and is enmeshed in geo-politics which brings the South Korean president to the White House for talks.
No sooner has tea been served, the bodies start to pile up, a colossal Hercules style aircraft starts mowing down security staff and civilians alike as it heads for “the most secure building in the world”.
As events progress the only man who can save the day is Mike Banning, handily trained by special forces before presumably moving to the Security service. The film is very much black and white, Americans good and decent and the enemy du jour very bad. On this occasion filling this role are North Korean (NK) sympathisers, again leavened by being labelled as a terrorist splinter group, just in case the NK cinematic demographic opens up.
The film is unashamedly old fashioned with a cookie cutter story, there is little irony, humour or even awareness of similar films this attempts to emulate. In keeping with modern trends, the villains are more ruthless than usual, with TV style executions which probably seem tame for the Youtube generation.
It would be easy to tick off the plot points, child in danger, shock killings to emphasise how ruthless the bad guys are, revenge taken by lone gunman against the odds, incompetent warmongering generals and a final rousing speech wrapped in the Star Spangled banner before the credits roll.
Predictable yes, with workmanlike direction and brick by brick suspense building. There is nothing to distinguish this from many other films in a similar vein. Morgan Freeman as speaker Trumbull and Angela Bassett as Secret Service Director attempt to add some gravitas to limited effect.
Freeman in particular is handicapped by weak dialogue and nonsensical decision making. One would hope someone in that position would have more moral fibre than is demonstrated here. Of course there is a movie Macguffin in the shape of some vague secret military doomsday process “Cerberus”, which will usher in some doom laden scenario, that characters must strive to avoid.
The effects are average, not the state of the art and the body count high and keeping the brutality relatively real has also impacted the films rating. Butler is average, adding no personality to the role, albeit adding another rather bland entry to his resume.
Popcorn fodder with a formulaic plot, fun whilst it lasts but instantly forgettable and adding nothing to the genre.
“Die Hard in the White House” does what it says on the tin but with minimal style and displaying no screen charisma or magic.