I'm not trying to be a hero! I'M FIGHTING THE DRAGON!!

White House Down

tn_whitehousedownYou know me, I can enjoy a good DIE HARD type movie. Or a bad one. I like SUDDEN DEATH. I love the UNDER SIEGES, of course. And 3 of the 4 official DIE HARD sequels. But this year is trying to knock me off the wagon. We’ve had three mediocre to bad DIE HARD type movies so far and while A GOOD DAY TO DIE HARD was obviously the one that was soul-crushingly disappointing, this is the one that I found most boring. I mean, I’m not gonna pretend Roland Emmerich is known for movies that are worth your time to actually watch, because that would be a bold faced lie. But I figured with this good of a cast and a classic template to follow he could make an enjoyably stupid movie. He mostly just got the second part.

Channing Tatum plays a fuckup Capitol Police officer whose daughter is a huge nerd for the White House and the president (Jamie Foxx) so he tries to get a job in the Secret Service to impress her. And brings her with him for the interview. When he gets rejected they decide to take a White House tour and while they’re there there’s an attack and only Tatum can protect the president, so they hide in an elevator shaft for a while, etc.

I’d heard this was basically a scene-by-scene remake of DIE HARD, but I don’t agree. Yes, they get him in a dirty white tank top. He has his relative hostage and the hostage-takers eventually figure out they’re related and use that against him. He is kind of estranged from his daughter, similar to being estranged from his wife. The part in the elevator shaft. Okay, there’s alot of similarities. But the overall feel is really different in a bad way, because this character is not as well drawn, he’s not reluctant, he’s not as desperate or as funny, he’s not alone, he doesn’t have the same sort of Bugs Bunny opposition to the villain, you don’t feel the pain or injury that much. There’s no Ellis. There’s no Karl. There’s no face-to-face with Grueber. I forget what happens to the villain.

I’m still pro-Tatum, and he’s pretty likable here as always, and is introduced talking to a squirrel, possibly in homage to a different Bruce Willis movie where he was introduced waking up with a dead squirrel on his head. But instead of the confident Tatum we saw in HAYWIRE it’s more like the mumbly, inward guy from STEP UP, which doesn’t really fit the asskicking dad trying to make an impression at the White House. And there doesn’t seem to be much thought put into what sort of action hero he’s supposed to be. He was in Afghanistan, that’s how they explain his skills. Is he an amazing unstoppable badass like Casey Ryback, who creates awe in his opponents? No, not really. Is he a tenacious, lucky bastard like John McClane, who runs in there against his better judgment and survives by the skin of his teeth? No, I don’t think so. What kind of stuff does he do? Oh, I don’t know, he runs in and shoots and stuff, I don’t remember any particular great moments. Some good high speed limo driving on the White House lawn, I guess. Trying to make Argyle obsolete.

mp_whitehousedownTatum and Foxx make a good team, but that’s entirely on them having charisma and has nothing to do with their characters or scenes that they have. You want to see them stuck together working this problem out, but the movie keeps cutting to Maggie Gyllenhaal as the head of the Secret Service and other officials whose screen time should’ve been kept to about the same amount as the chiefs of staff in UNDER SIEGE. You get more information than you need about what’s going on on the outside and as a result you don’t really get as much of a feel as you should for where the should-be-leads are in the White House or what they need to do or if they’re in that much danger.

The movie’s most grievous fuckup: it takes 45 god damn minutes to get to the part where the bad guys attack. I mean, you see them getting into place and everything, following the DIE HARD formula, but there’s nothing clever or compelling about the way they do it, nothing particularly suspenseful, there is nothing gained by dragging it the fuck out. Meanwhile we learn about all the good guy characters and what they’re supposed to be about but gain no more understanding or connection with them than we would in a standard action movie where the action part starts in the opening scene, then there’s 10-15 minutes of setup, then more action. So by the time there is finally an explosion I felt like packing it up, and any potential energy or momentum was already drained out of the fuckin thing.

The main villain is James Woods, but he’s not in fun James Woods asshole mode. They’re going for more of an Ed-Harris-in-THE-ROCK thing where it seems like he sees himself as a patriot doing what’s best for his country, but he doesn’t play it with the gravity of Harris (and doesn’t have that Hans Zimmer score to help him). So it’s the worst of both worlds – not a great character, not a great Woods performance.

One thing Emmerich does have in common with Michael Bay: a terrible sense of humor and reckless disregard for tone. So just like in INDEPENDENCE DAY he’ll slap some groaner right in the middle of a supposedly dramatic scene. There’s the “funny” White House tour guide with the running gag that he gets mad that they’re breaking things and says his tour spiel to guys pointing machine guns at him. Ha ha. Also, the “funny” bumbling white supremacist redneck guy with the cartoonish Hulk Hogan mustache. I like laughs in my action movies but they gotta be laughs, not “laughs,” and also you gotta know where to put them and have them come out naturally. Emmerich’s style is like putting frosting on a pizza. Hey, it’s pizza! It’s frosting! That’s the stuff I like!

There’s kind of a funny-stupid gimmick to explain what’s supposed to be a colorful super-team of terrorists, but most of them are just treated as jokes. You get a guy who’s “the king of the hackers” who spends most of the movie waving his arms around listening to classical music while computer screens do things that we, as citizens of the year 2013, are pretty sure computer screens don’t do. I could see enjoying that character as some kind of a throwback to a cliche of the ’90s maybe. The only villain you can take seriously is the second in command played by Jason Clarke, who was so great in ZERO DARK THIRTY and several other movies the last year or two that I promise you he’ll be playing a comic book character within 3 years. You gotta enjoy him here too but there isn’t much to the character. Compare him to Busey in UNDER SIEGE or Everett McGill in UNDER SIEGE 2: DARK TERRITORY and you’ll understand how much more can be done with this exact type of character in this exact type of movie.

If I had to name the most legitimately cool parts in the movie, you better give me some time because I can’t think of anything off the top of my head. The best you get here is some funny absurd moments like the president hanging out of the side of a limo firing a rocket launcher, so I appreciate that. But there’s not enough of it even to sustain a shorter movie (this one’s 131 minutes, a respectable length for a better movie).

The most ridiculous aspect, and therefore my favorite, is that instead of having his wife there like John McClane he has his daughter (Joey King), and because of her interest in the White House she delivers some of the exposition, like bringing up the existence of a secret security room. Also she is a Youtuber who records the attackers with her phone and posts them so they can be identified ( not that it helps anybody). Then the media stupidly outs her by name and Twitter photo, almost getting her killed. But don’t worry, it’s PG-13. She’s safe and there will be no smoking or boobs and only one presidential “fuck you.”

By the way, I could not stop thinking about how much this little girl looks like Rachel Weisz, and that she should play the young version of her sometime. Turns out she played the young Marion Cotillard in THE DARK KNIGHT RISES, and I continue to get those two mixed up somehow, so it almost counts. I think she looks more like Weisz though.

Right? It's not just me, is it?
Right? It’s not just me, is it?

Let’s say you’re gonna take 45 excruciating minutes to set up the characters in this movie, and you want to show that he’s blown it as a father and his daughter is mad at him. Would you try to come up with a new way to illustrate that? Or would you say that he forgot to go to her talent show? Well, they went with talent show. I just don’t know how they do that. They’re getting paid alot of money to write this shit, wouldn’t it be worth taking the afternoon to try to come up with a new one? Not recital/talent show, not baseball game, not birthday. Just, a different one. The credited writer, James Vanderbilt, is the guy that wrote ZODIAC, so I feel like maybe he could come up with one.

You gotta wonder if it was a corporate decision. “No, we focus grouped this. America is not ready for a new one. Gotta be recital or talent show. He was supposed to go but he forgot which day it was. The girl was real sad.”

To be fair though, this talent show bullshit is setup for the funniest stupid bit in the movie, easily the highlight. So I take it back, it was worth it.

While alot of these types of movies are a little bit right wing, this one has some pretty silly lefty stuff, beginning with the president’s plan to remove the military from the middle east and using the money to pay for education and food and shit there. It’s a nice sentiment but I’m not sure it’s a magic recipe for peace either.

There are a couple funny digs at that popular non-partisan target The Media. I like how they report on suddenly finding out the terrorists look white. And there’s a blowhard tv pundit guy (I think he’s supposed to be a Bill O’Reilly or Rush Limbaugh type) who cries like a sissy the whole time. But they apparently felt guilty making fun of this one-dimensional cartoon so they make him man up at the end. Oddly disappointing.

In other news, congratulations to Lance Reddick for graduating from uncredited soldier on Manhattan Bridge in Emmerich’s GODZILLA 15 years ago to major character General Caulfield in this one.

It would be a waste of time to try to list all the things that are not believable in a movie like this, but I especially got a kick out of how casual everybody was right after a terrorist attack blew up the White House and Air Force One and a bunch of other shit. Instead of running in to find the president they all just stand around on the lawn talking, taking Tatum’s word for it that the president “didn’t make it,” then letting him trick them into revealing a secret conspiracy. They let him leave on a not-in-a-hurry chopper with the injured president, and he immediately decides his daughter can come too, without even asking permission. I feel like there should be more security in place two minutes after the worst attack in American history. In my opinion. And they should probly get a doctor to look at the president’s wounds? Shouldn’t that be policy? Worth considering, in my opinion.

Admittedly, this is the only DIE HARD type movie where at the end they find out that also world peace happened while this was all going on. So that’s pretty cool. I’ll give it that. That didn’t happen in SUDDEN DEATH.

If you’re looking for action, there is some I think. Of course Emmerich’s main interest is in special effects explosions of various presidential things, so he’s better at that than the fighting. I’m giving it a pretty high ACR rating because there’s not alot of problems with shaky cameras or quick cuts, and only one of the fights is shot close up. I think it being a PG-13 movie caused a lack of bullet hits that makes some of it confusing, but for the most part it’s pretty easy to make out. Please don’t mistake this for me saying it’s good action, though. I couldn’t point you to a particularly good scene or move, and didn’t feel like there was any build to the movie of any kind. It’s just… shots are fired. The car does a donut. A plane blows up. Different parts of the White House blow up at different times.

If you see only one UNDER SIEGE IN THE WHITE HOUSE movie this year, see… ah, who gives a shit? Nobody will remember either of these movies a year from now. Of the two I think I preferred OLYMPUS HAS FALLEN. I forget why though. Something about Melissa Leo?

acr_whitehousedown

VERN has been reviewing movies since 1999 and is the author of the books SEAGALOGY: A STUDY OF THE ASS-KICKING FILMS OF STEVEN SEAGAL, YIPPEE KI-YAY MOVIEGOER!: WRITINGS ON BRUCE WILLIS, BADASS CINEMA AND OTHER IMPORTANT TOPICS and NIKETOWN: A NOVEL. His horror-action novel WORM ON A HOOK will arrive later this year.
This entry was posted on Sunday, June 30th, 2013 at 11:39 pm and is filed under Action, Reviews. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can skip to the end and leave a response. Pinging is currently not allowed.

69 Responses to “White House Down”

  1. So successive black presidents go downhill in quality just as fast as succesive white ones?

  2. I do like the idea in the movie that right wing extremists would literally blow up the fucking white house, the capital building, air force one and try to kill the fucking President and still believe that they’re doing America a favor

    that kinda reminds me of a certain political party that hates a certain President so much they would rather see the Government collapse than play ball

  3. Shite House Down.

    Too much?

  4. Seems like a little bit of a stretch to compare the terrorists in White House Down to Republicans Griff.

    I don’t like Republicans. They fear the gays and hate public services and all that. It just seems like a bit of a stretch.

  5. but it’s pretty obvious that that’s what they’re going for, I’m not saying it’s realistic, I’m just saying it’s funny satire

    but even so, I don’t think it’s THAT much of a stretch, Conservatives do seem to have this attitude that Obama, being a Democrat, does not really “count”, he’s not ACTUALLY the President, he’s just some guy pretending to be, they’re always trying to delegitimize him (“he was born in Kenya” etc)

    remember during the Bush years, when they said that criticizing the President is basically an act of treason? they practically wanted Michael Moore to be executed (don’t believe me? remember this flick? http://www.imdb.com/title/tt1190617/reference ) if you said one ill word about Bush it meant you hated America, hated freedom, the terrorists win etc

    boy, they sure changed their tune about that as soon as Obama entered office huh? now you get Tea Partyers slapping Hitler mustaches on Obama just like liberals did to Bush and conveniently, none of them have ever addressed the blatant hypocrisy of this

  6. Dikembe Mutombo

    July 1st, 2013 at 2:33 am

    I was on the fence about seeing this one, but I’ll skip it now. 45 minutes of setup? I could see that working if the characters are really great, but I’m guessing nobody’s gonna fondly remember Channing Tatum In A Dirty Undershirt and Jamie Foxx In Malcom X Glasses years down the line. Why do so many DIE HARD knockoffs not bother imitating important stuff like memorable characters and snappy pacing?

    BTW I recognized the Lil Rachel Weisz kid from Taylor Swift’s “Mean” music video:

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jYa1eI1hpDE

  7. and why exactly have you been watching Taylor Swift videos?

  8. Didn’t James Vanderbilt (also credited on the new ROBOCOP) sell this script as a spec last year for $3 million?

  9. Dikembe Mutombo

    July 1st, 2013 at 8:30 am

    Griff – Hey, I think she’s a great songwriter. A better question is, why aren’t YOU watching Taylor swift videos?

  10. I think my problem with this movie’s villainy is that the movie does its best to muddle their motivations and identities so not to say they’re ultra-right wing terrorists and blabber about the military-industrial complex, because they’re afraid of offending red state audiences. (Which is nonsense.) Why not simply have fundamentalist Christian zealots or that ilk be out and about? I mean the idea of them nuking Iran (before they can have a nuke program) sounds like their sort of mentality. I guess I liked that Woods line about “the last war in that region” because Neocons always have an unrealistic, fantasy mentality about that region which they’ve never learned from. Never.

    At least OHF, its North Koreans wanting the American military out of the peninsula so they could invade South Korea. Simple and not convoluted. (Even if nobody takes NK that seriously as a military threat as that film does.)

  11. I had heard this WHD was fun and was planning on catching it in theaters this week, but after Vern’s review I going to just wait and rent it. I am kind of disappointed I had hopes for this one.

  12. My favorite moment was the one Vern suprisingly didn’t mention, when the Jason Clarke character randomly caps a George Washington portrait, right on the head. In pro wrestling, we would call that a good cheap heel move like mocking the crowd’s hometown.

    As for this movie, I have to agree with Vern about the Tatum/Foxx team-up. And I think the movie really missed a golden creative opporunity here.

    The movie alluded to Tatums’ character being a Republican, and Foxx is obviously an Obama surrogate. Why not actually play up much more on this wacky scenario? The best buddy movies have two complete opposites ultimately bond into one unit by the end. Or you know, actually have memorable character moments instead of the usual blam blam in general action cinema? (I think of LETHAL WEAPON where Mel Gibson called that suicide jumper’s bluff and then Glover tries to do the same with him, then Gibson goes to get a hotdog.)

    I liked that Sony Exec telling Deadline that WHD bombed because it was OLYMPUS HAS FALLEN’s fault. Well gee really? Then why didn’t you guys make more of an effort to differentiate yourselves from OHF in the marketing? Hell not I dunno move the movie to next spring?

    After GI JOE 2 and WORLD WAR Z, can we move on from the idea that a movie moving dates doesn’t mean the film is a DOA turkey at the box-office?

  13. Frankenstein1910

    July 1st, 2013 at 9:15 am

    Well, Vern, if you have a look at Vanderbilt’s *actual* Zodiac script – i.e. the pages that Fincher was reading before he frowned, said “What the hell is this crap?”, and hit that speed-dial in his cell that’s marked “REWRITES” – you might start doubting if he can really come up with that much…

  14. Knox Harrington

    July 1st, 2013 at 10:14 am

    I really enjoyed Olympus Has Fallen. Thought it was just enjoyable enough to be above average, and I’m glad it “won” the box office competition. There’s a part of me that really enjoys it when these huge shitty blockbusters fail. Same thing with Battleship.

    But seriously, can someone explain to me how two extremely similar movies like this get released in the same year? It’s happened before. Mirror Mirror + Snow White and the Huntsman, Deep Impact + Armageddon, Antz + A Bug’s Life, Volcano + Dante’s Inferno. How does this happen? Does one studio simply steal another’s idea and rush to release their movie before the other guy? Is it some juvenile bet between execs? Just goes to show the mentality of the Hollywood machine.

  15. It did take too long for things to get going, but it didn’t seem *that* long. I remember more lag in OLYMPUS HAS FALLEN. I liked Olympus’ assault on the White House, but the rest of the movie is Butler hiding in dark rooms/walking down dark hallways and repetitive “Give me your code!!” scenes with the bad guy. I’ll give WHITE HOUSE DOWN the edge over Olympus because overall it has more bigger, dumber action and it all takes place during the day. You also get a bit of a buddy relationship between the likeable President and likeable Channing Tatum. There should have been more of that.

    Emmerich’s kind of like a B version of Michael Bay without the mean streak.

  16. “Does one studio simply steal another’s idea and rush to release their movie before the other guy?”

    Yes. Seriously! Most of the time it’s what happens. “Hey, Studio XY is making a movie about giant Dinosaurs from space and they got some a-lister on the director’s chair!” “Wow, this movie is gonna be huge! Y’know what, we got a similar spec script on the shelf for years. We could release our movie at least 3 months earlier!”

    It’s like what The Asylum does with their “Mockbusters”, only on a much, much, bigger scale.

  17. I’m reminded of that story one of the Pixar guys told once of how before TOY STORY, they pitched A BUG’S LIFE to Disney as one of the planned follow-ups. Who was an exec at Disney at the time? Katzenberg. Sometime afterwards of course left Disney for Dreamworks and started up his own CGI cartoon studio. Their first release? ANTZ.

  18. I hope this is the movie that ends the Channing Tatum years. I honestly don’t get the sudden stardom of the guy. To me, he has roughly the same amount of charisma as a brick wall. He was ok in 21 Jump St, but beyond that I have just despised him in every thing I’ve seen him in. He’s a terrible actor and comes across like his IQ is in the low 80s (I don’t know shit about IQ ratings, but I assume that’s really low). Go back to being a stripper, Mr Tatum. That way I can go back to not knowing you exist.

  19. The phrase is actually “bald-faced lie,” originating from a time when it was believed that bearded men were shifty and hiding something, and clean-shaven men were innocent and upstanding. Thus, men with bald faces who could still lie effectively were the most apt and devious.

    Great review, Vern!

  20. Yeah but maybe mine is a bold faced lie.

  21. I’m with you Vern, I hate “laughs” in my movies. Also, “chuckles”.

    I heard that the daughter says at one point that no one calls blogs “blogs” anymore. Uh, yeah they do? Right?

  22. I know Vern doesn’t exactly have a long history of loving Roland Emmerich, but I was kinda pulling for this one all the same simply because whatever else you can say about Rollie, the guy knows how to put a camera on a tripod and watch the fireworks. If you wanna see special effects, at least Emmerich is nice enough to show them to you. If only he had imagination enough to show you something really interesting. Still, I actually think between the dream casts he always has and his cheeseball classic Hollywood style, his movies are consistently more enjoyable –or at least less egregious– than most of his competitors (Bay, etc).

  23. It’s 45 minutes of setup, I checked my watch, and for all the blatant setting up of White House rooms and stuff there’s still no sense of geography once they’re running around halls and climbing elevator shafts.

    Vern nailed 100% of my problems with this movie, and the few parts that kinda saved it. Limos on the lawn were a great idea. Wish it were shot better. The flag waving was funny and a few other crazy touches it’s people with no senses of humor making jokes and people with no understanding of politics being political.

  24. Knox Harrington

    July 1st, 2013 at 2:07 pm

    You still call blogs “blogs”, Stu?

    *cough* Loser! *cough*

  25. Knox Harrington

    July 1st, 2013 at 2:09 pm

    I don’t know why I put stars around the coughs. I thought that’s how people do it, but it looks strange now.

  26. I loved the shit out of OLYMPUS HAS FALLEN. It was pretty much the UNDER SIEGE 3 we never had. You could have easily replaced Mike Benning with Casey Ryback and it would have been almost the same movie. He had the same strange affection for knives, a badass special ops background (although I don’t think Army Rangers are ever one man murder machines even in fiction), and the disgraced hero backstory with an anti-authoritarian streak. If only Seagal would have been in shape and even remotely hireable for a theatrical film. But Gerard Butler was fine too.

    And I really appreciated them going for broke with the R-rating. All the face stabbings, numerous gunshot wounds (which were mostly digital – boo!), and Melissa Leo kickings. Very refreshing when most films court the PG-13 rating and sanitize the effect of violence.

    Which it looks like what WHITE HOUSE DOWN does. A bit shame. But I don’t mind a more lighter hearted buddy cop take on the material. I’ll definitely check it out when it comes out on rental. Even if it is not the lean and mean action film OLYMPUS HAS FALLEN was.

  27. “A better question is, why aren’t YOU watching Taylor swift videos?”

    because I’m not a teenage girl

  28. The Original... Paul

    July 1st, 2013 at 4:31 pm

    Wow, this was a great review. I’ve always said my favorites of yours are the ones where you’re either really positive on the film, or really negative. Eviscerations are always fun to watch – hey, that’s why we’re all here, right?

    Knox – I put stars around the coughs as well. Maybe we’re just old-fashioned like that.

    May I take this opportunity to remind everybody here that “Olympus Has Fallen” will, in a few years, be recognised as the greatest work of misunderstood satirical genius since “Starship Troopers”? If anybody remembers it, anyway… The only debate I see happening is over whether or not that particular aspect of the film was a complete and utter accident, or if it was brilliantly-conceived design. I’m still not sure which is the case myself, to be honest.

    I mean, in “Olympus Has Fallen”, within the first fifteen minutes or so, the President has fired the guy who saved his life, but kept all of the other guys on his staff, including the ones who killed his wife by driving way too fast on an icy bridge during a freaking blizzard… I mean, that would work if they set it to Benny Hill. The fact that this incompetent moron is played by Aaron Ackhart doing his best “Martin Sheen in The West Wing” impersonation, to music that might’ve been taken straight from “Pearl Harbor”… That’s either the work of a complete and utter jingoistic idiot, or a director with such subtle razor-sharp satirical strokes that they’ve gone almost wholly unnoticed by people who’ve seen the film. Not me though!

  29. Channing Tatum’s stupidity (or typecasting as the dumb jock) is a big part of his charm. I have only seen Jump St, Fighting, and that abomination GI Joe. Fighting was a good mix of Boiler Room meets (less grim) midnight Cowboy. Pretty dope.

  30. Knox,

    I don’t know why two similar movies come out at the same time either, but it can’t just be explained by plagiarism.

    David Cronenberg has complained that his films always seem to coincide with some other movie coming out on a similar theme (Dead Ringers / Twins, Naked Lunch / Barton Fink, eXistenZ / The Matrix). He thought for sure when M Butterfly came out that it would be unique, but then The Crying Game came out around the same time.

    I think it’s more likely that two or more different people independently sense the next big thing. That’s how movements start – punk rock, for example, was all guys who happened to have a similar attitude at the same age and time, and they weren’t entirely happy to be lumped into a group by the media.

  31. but…but…..you can’t get any different than Dead Ringers vs Twins, yeah they’re both about twins, but come on, other than that they have NOTHING in common (or maybe I forgot about the scenes where Arnold tries to shove a demented metal device up a woman’s vagina and Jeremy Irons sings Yakety Yak poorly and loudly on an airplane)

    and who thinks to themselves “chicks with dicks, THAT’s the next big thing!”?

  32. The similar concepts/similar movies thing is DEFINITELY based on stealing ideas. I mean, who makes two Steve Prefontaine movies at the same time?

  33. I don’t know what y’alls’ problem is. WHITE HOUSE DOWN is good corny fun. I knowingly spent money on a Roland Emmerich movie and by God, that’s what I got: a feel-good human interest story spiked with wanton but bloodless destruction. Even at its ungodly length it went down real easy.

    The movie doesn’t make sense in what we like to call the real world, but at least it dots its i’s and crosses its t’s. It works within itself. Vern mocks Tatum missing his daughter’s talent show, but that detail is actually setting up her “talent” (flag-waving) saving the day at the end. Yes, it’s utterly retarded, but it’s at least a set-up and a payoff. The 45 minutes of pre-action table-setting is full of little bits like that, from the painting of the White House burning down to the little girl’s question about the secret tunnels. Most movies these days can’t even handle this basic storytelling trick of using incidental detail to lay the groundwork for major happenings down the line. They just kind of toss out shit as required and forget it when it’s no longer needed. It’s a shame that screenwriting standards have fallen so low that WHD’s brand of formulaic hackery is now an almost forgotten kind of craftsmanship.

    I also appreciated the movie’s politics, which had an endearing Clinton-era naïveté. All we gotta do is have just this one guy to stand up for what’s right and we can end war and corruption in our lifetime. Why not? We used to believe in that kind of shit back then. With the camera firmly bolted to a tripod and an emphasis on average joe heroism and four-quandrant-friendly emotional manipulation, it felt like the fifth best action movie of 1997.

  34. Also, you can hear Tatum say “Thank you, sir” before he invites his daughter onto the helicopter, so he did get permission first. Shame he didn’t get the ex-wife on there, too. Nothing reignites a relationship like a flyby on the Lincoln Memorial.

    Speaking of which, since Jamie Foxx had such a thing for Lincoln, it might have been a nice “Oh, shit it’s on” moment if somehow the memorial got blown up. Maybe Lincoln’s head even lands on the White House lawn and Foxx sees it out the window. Or even better, it hits the limo when they’re tear-assing around the yard. Then later when he’s punching James Woods he could be like, “This is for Abe!” It could work.

  35. Sony is offering free tickets for WHD to active military and veterans on the 4th of July.

    Mouth, this is your chance!

    http://www.deadline.com/2013/07/white-house-down-columbia-pictures-sony-military-july-4/

  36. Exactly, Majestyk. It wasn’t gonna have good execution of anything so it needed more crazy shit like that. Unfortunately there’s only enough (headshot on the portrait, limo donuts and rocket launcher, flag routine) to fill a brief youtube highlight reel.

  37. Skani,
    I understand what you’re saying, but I just don’t see it. Maybe if there were some inherent charm involved, I could get behind the dumb act (for the record, I’m not saying Tatum is actually dumb… He could be the smartest guy in the world as far as I know, he just comes across as completely vacant to me… Also, he seems like a nice enough guy so this is just about me disliking his work).

    Yesterday, Cracked ran an article joking about sexual positions named after celebrities. The description of the Channing Tatum did a great job of nailing my real issue with the guy’s sudden rise. Here’s the excerpt:

    “This sexy move is sure to please. After all, what’s sexier than channing some tatum, if you know what I mean? Oh, you don’t know what I mean? Well, the Channing Tatum is a sex act for two people. Prior to intercourse, have everyone you know tell your partner that you’re the next big thing. Then have sex with her in a manner that will leave her unable to remember anything about your performance.”

  38. Despite my plans to wait and catch this one on video I ended up seeing it yesterday and was pleasantly satisfied. It was pretty corny and dragged in parts, and there are no ideas or concepts in WHD that you haven’t already seen in better films, but I liked it much more than I expected after reading Vern’s review. It was like having a home cooked meal after being away for a long time, it wasn’t the best but there is something familiar and comforting about it. WHD felt like the 90’s era action films I grew up on. People have regularly compared it to DIE HARD but it reminded me a lot more of THE ROCK. (SPOILERS) Vern already pointed out the similarity between James Woods character in WHD and Ed Harris’s in THE ROCK, but they also both involve a siege at a unique historical building, an unlikely duo teaming up to save the day, and feature a pending airstrike in the climax.

  39. Speaking of stupid movies I was warned against seeing, THE LONE RANGER is good, goofy fun. Better than the last two PIRATES movies, in my opinion. Verbinski remains a Spielberg disciple in his devotion to constructing crazy Rube Goldberg action set-pieces and then shooting them in a smooth, fluid style. The movie’s not exactly a work of substance, and the jury’s still out on whether it’s racist or not, but there’s a part where a guy has a shootout with a guy on a train while riding a horse inside another train, so there’s that. Plus it’ll probably lose a big corporation a shitload of money. Everybody wins!

  40. I have no idea. It just opened like five hours ago, but these weird throwback action-adventure flicks usually tank, and I know this one ended up being way, way more expensive than they intended. Which is fine with me. I am not currently a Disney stockholder so I’m not particularly invested in their film division’s quarterly earnings. It’s not like I get my money back if it makes over a certain amount.

  41. yeah, but if it’s actually a good movie you should still hope it does well, only bad movies deserve to flop

  42. A Bruckheimer-produced movie getting bad reviews. Gee I’m shocked. I’m sorry but his productions are usually critic-proof, but we’ll see how the masses will respond to this in general, because early numbers aren’t that encouraging. Of course I’m one of those gents who thought POTC 2 was better than the first POTC.

    I find weird people online who think TLR’s bombing will get Depp to go back and try to “act” again instead of wearing make-up in blockbusters. Which is of course amusingly naive. Why?

    (1) What’s his next movie? Another PIRATES movie. That’ll probably make another gazillion bucks, and we’re back to square one. (Fuck that series already had two billion dollar entries.)

    (2) Why do people still act like we’re still in the 1970s where studios’ primary source of money came from movies and where a film like HEAVEN’S GATE could bankrupt a studio?* Conglomerate corporate empires own the studios now and guess what? They can take a massive bomb and walk away without a real scratch.

    Disney a few years ago have had duds like MARS NEEDS MOMS and JOHN CARTER. (The latter which I actually kinda enjoyed but nevermind) and now this possibly…and what will happen? Other than studio chiefs getting canned, nothing happened. I mean other than Pixar and Marvel and others within the Disney Empire making money. And there is no way Disney is going to let go of Mr. Bruckheimer’s services just becuase of this blip. Now if he made several costly blips in a row, that would be different. (Then again, anybody remember PRINCE OF PERSIA? Didn’t that flop or is my memory banks wrong?)

    Its weird how 6 months ago, I was sure WORLD WAR Z and GREAT GATSBY would be disasters but they aren’t. I thought LONE RANGER would do typical Bruckheimer business, and so far its not. Weird. (R.I.P.D. though I’m sure is D.O.A. Or not?)

    *=Which is actually a myth, btw.

  43. I think it’s funny that every several years they remake one of these old timey adventure characters. They almost always are considered failures, and I usually like them: THE PHANTOM, THE SHADOW, JOHN CARTER. I figure most people don’t want to see a Lone Ranger movie, but I do. Are they just making these for me?

    I tried to figure out if any of them had ever been hits, and somebody came up with MASK OF ZORRO. (By some of the same writers as LONE RANGER, incidentally.)

  44. Vern – I would add PIRATES OF THE CARIBBEAN, if we accept movie pirates in general as one of your “old timey adventure characters.”

    Hopefully Shane Black’s DOC SAVAGE movie can break this trend.

    (Would Captain America count since they did a movie on his (pseudo) Nazi-punching days?)

  45. Charles, are you on my Twitter feed. Last week someone said WHD was more like THE ROCK than DIE HARD, and I told them that’s like saying SPEED is more UNDER SEIGE on a bus than DIE HARD. Of course I see the ROCK comparisons with the villain’s motivation and waving off the bombing at the end, but that doesn’t make it not DIE HARD in the White House.

    Mr. Majestyk, I appreciate the effort to set stuff up but it was set up badly. Part of the art is that you’re not necessarily supposed to know that everything you’re hearing in act one is something that will pay off. When they stop to look at the fire portrait, talk about the tunnels, etc. it’s just blatant. And not at all entertaining for 45 minutes like the beginnings of DIE HARD or THE ROCK and others are.

    Worst of all, despite going on an entire White House tour with the characters, there’s still no sense of geography in the White House once the action starts. They told us about all the rooms and showed them walking from hall to hall, but when Channing and Foxx are running around I don’t know how close they are to the bad guys or the hostages (the bad guys seem to know where they are though). I don’t really know which rooms are connected by that elevator shaft they keep climbing in and out of.

    I will add though one crazy touch I liked that Vern didn’t mention. When they bring in the villain’s wife to try to talk him down and she ends up saying, “Go get ’em, honey.” That was crazy balls, but still not enough.

  46. Fred: I don’t disagree. I’m not trying to say that what was happening in WHD was good writing. I just appreciate the effort. It seems like most movies these days are so convinced that they’re wowing my balls off that they don’t even try to make things add up. Both these types of movies and WHD think I’m an idiot, but WHD at least thinks I’m the kind of idiot who needs the dramatic unities telegraphed for me. A lot of movies think I’m the kind of idiot who doesn’t even notice them at all.

  47. Fred, I am not on Twitter. I don’t deny WHD’s similarities to DH, I am just surprised more people haven’t pointed out how similar it is to THE ROCK. I also agree with your complaints about WHD down. It is a pretty unremarkable movie, but I enjoyed it for what it is warts and all.

  48. I wasn’t planning on catching THE LONE RANGER in theaters. I enjoyed the first Pirates film but never enjoyed any of the sequels. Personally I can’t understand the appeal of the franchise or why it has been so successful, and my dislike for it makes me apprehensive about TLR. However, I am glad to hear Mr. M enjoyed it and I hope it is a fun film. My father is super excited to see it. Actually I bet there are a lot of seniors out there that are excited about TLR. It would be awesome/hilarious if there were lines of senior citizens camping out in front of theaters waiting to catch the first screening of TLR. Maybe some of them would be dressed up as the Lone Ranger or Tonto.

  49. Charles – If people actually remembered THE ROCK, then yeah many more would make that comparison.

  50. RRA, fair enough.

  51. Not trying to be a dick, but bring up 1990s action movies and what will people bring up? Most likely SPEED, HARD BOILED, TERMINATOR 2, UNDER SIEGE, and many more before we get to THE ROCK.

    (Of course those first 4 beat the pants out of THE ROCK but that’s never here or there.)

  52. RRA, so are you saying people are forgetting about THE ROCK because of its age or quality? Because if you are saying the average teenager is not going to be very familiar with THE ROCK then I would agree with you but if you are trying to disparage THE ROCK’s status as an 90’s action classic then I have to strongly disagree. You are correct that you could argue that SPEED, HARD BOILED, TERMINATOR 2, and UNDER SIEGE are all better than THE ROCK, but those are classics of the genre and better than most films and while you can argue the individual merits of all those films vs THE ROCK and we are probably going to agree but I think THE ROCK is in the class of those films.

  53. THE ROCK was a higher grosser than SPEED and UNDER SIEGE. It also had multiple video releases from both the studio and the Criterion Collection. And while I enjoy and recognize the importance of HARD BOILED its limited availability (theatrically and on video) surely makes it less well known anywhere but in critic and fan circles. THE ROCK for better or worse also receives a bump in memory from the long tail of Michael Bay. I’m not going to argue quality or place in action movie history, but if the discussion is which action movies from the ’90s the general moviegoing public is likely to remember or bring up, THE ROCK would certainly be up there. With a jam-packed cast still recognizable today how couldn’t it be?

    As always apologies for commenting in a post about a movie I haven’t seen.

  54. I’m going to be honest, I actually enjoyed this one a little more than Olympus Has Fallen. Don’t get me wrong, I enjoyed Olympus Has Fallen. I thought it had some good action and they didn’t hold back on the violence, but I didn’t care for the whole North Korean subtext and anti-war propaganda. White House Down, on the other hand, had some funny one-liners and didn’t take itself seriously too much like OHF did.

    That isn’t to say that I didn’t see any flaws in WHD. I saw some flaws and there were some things that kind of had me rolling my eyes at, but for the most part, I had a blast watching it.

  55. Charles – We’re not talking about quality, but movies that for a brief time owned the moment if you will. Hell even ID4 (a movie that does nothing for me) was the movie of summer 1996. T2 did the same in summer 1991, SPEED for summer 1994 (along with FOREST GUMP I guess.) UNDER SIEGE was Seagal’s biggest most popular hit, the one time when he did flirt with being an A-level star. The peak of his career, and maybe the film most folks recognize him for. Hell Siskel put it on his Top 10 list that year.

    HARD BOILED didn’t own the moment in the American mainstream, but what a diehard cult following at that time and basically with his other Hong Kong productions, it got John Woo a try out in Hollywood.

    THE ROCK….was just there. It came and went. Fun/ny I almost included FACE/OFF on my list of 90s actioneers, but I would say the same about it. (Better film but that’s not what we’re talking about.)

    clubside – Yeah you’re right. I sometimes confuse the Internet with regular people. If this was the Internet, then yeah I still stick by putting HARD BOILED on that list. But outside of the Internet? You might have a point.

    “THE ROCK was a higher grosser than SPEED and UNDER SIEGE.”

    And I believe WORLD WAR Z is the highest grossing zombie film ever. What’s your point?

  56. I wasn’t commenting on quality either, but rather the transitive property. THE ROCK is DIE HARD on Alcatraz, so saying WHITE HOUSE DOWN is more like THE ROCK is saying it’s DIE HARD on Alcatraz in the White House. Likewise UNDER SEIGE was DIE HARD on a boat, so it would be like comparing a DIE HARD knockoff to one of the DIE HARD knockoffs instead of just DIE HARD.

    But DIE HARD was FIRST BLOOD in a building so I guess we should really be calling all of these FIRST BLOOD ripoffs. Nah, DIE HARD is the standard.

  57. Vern, you said there was no Karl in this movie, but I thought it was pretty obvious that Jason Clarke was the Karl character. He was even motivated to hate the hero because Tatum killed his friend. Also, I think you’re greatly exaggerating when you say it took 45 minutes to get to the action. I remember it being more like 20-25 minutes.

    That being said, I enjoyed this movie. The action could have been much better, but I thought it was passable, especially the armored limo shootout on the White House lawn. Of course, I was laughing my ass off during this scene, so maybe I didn’t enjoy it for the right reasons. And most of the other humor worked for me, like the president having to put on his glasses to shoot the bad guy and Tatum’s interactions with his daughter. I even liked the tour guide guy and I was glad he got to take out the redneck guy. I do think the best part of the movie was the daughter (and I thought she looked more like Carla Gugino) and you’re right that she had the best moment of the movie when she did her impression of Nic Cage at the end of The Rock.

    Overall, I think I still lean towards Olympus Has Fallen, but frankly both of these movies are pretty forgettable. They were fun at the time, but I don’t know if I’ll watch either of them again.

  58. Fair enough on Karl, RJ, but I checked my watch and it really was 45 minutes when the first bomb went off. Wouldn’t matter if it didn’t seem like I was waiting around for it, but it did. Not for you, obviously, so that’s fine.

  59. I’ll defer to you on the timing, since I wasn’t really keeping track. I guess I was just enjoying the ride so it felt much quicker to me. Also, pot helped.

  60. Ok ok ok. Yes, I just saw this one (instead of Riddick. Sorry.) And you know what? I hate to be that guy who says you just didn’t get it, again, but I have to. YOU GUYS JUST DIDN’T GET IT.

    This shit is great! And TOTALLY different to “Olympus Has Fallen”. Apart from, you know, the White House being taken over and everything. Thematically the two movies can’t be more different.

    Let’s take “Olympus Has Fallen” first. You have Antoine Fuqua, the edgy satirist, taking a formula that’s been established for literally decades now and just ripping it to shreds. So what you get is a movie that completely mocks every trope of the genre So the President is a noble-looking white guy who’s played by Aaron Eckhart like he’s Martin Sheen from “The West Wing” or something, yet he’s a complete and utter moron whose every decision just causes more and more disaster. And instead of emphasizing this by using comedy “bumbling idiot” music like you’d get in “Dude, Where’s My Car” or something, they play it completely straight. Hell, the music could’ve been lifted direct from “Pearl Harbor”. Intentional? Maybe. Genius? Definitely!

    Compare that to “White House Down”, done by Roland Emmerich. For me, this film was like slipping into a comfortable old sweater that you haven’t worn for years. Whereas “Olympus has Fallen” is a work of “Starship Troopers”-level satire masked using the visual style and scoring of something like “Pearl Harbor”, “White House Down” plays EVERYTHING straight. To the point that it actually becomes quite comforting in its familiarity. When they brought up Abe Lincoln’s watch at the beginning, everybody over the age of sixteen in the audience must have been thinking: “Ah, so they’re going to do THAT ending, then?” And they did. (I’m just surprised it wasn’t a bible.) We all knew the girl would survive, the speaker would be unmasked as a bad guy at the end, the eighteen-tonne car would end up in the pool, and nary an inconvenient thought or mention would ever be given to the desolate grieving families of all the heroic agents and marines who died in the initial attack. This is cinematic sucrose at its finest.

    And people are complaining about the PG-13 rating? Guys, OF COURSE it has to be PG-13. And if you don’t understand why that is, you don’t understand Emmerich’s films.

    Y’see, there are two types of audience for an Emmerich film. You’ve got the young teenage cinemagoers, the ones who are just starting out with this kind of genre movie. The ones who haven’t learnt the tropes yet. And these guys eat this stuff up like candy! Whereas someone like me will see the ridiculous multi-screen “hacker” display and think, “Hey, that’s right out of War Games or something, they’s reassuringly familiar”, the kids see it and are enthralled. I saw this film with a nearly-full cinema of 2/3rds teenagers and they were LOVING it. Their reaction to this film, in fact, was much the same to my own at “Batman Forever” when I was their age. And that’s fine. Emmerich keeps using these old, old tropes and devices because, y’know what? They still work and there’s still an audience for them. Much as we might hate to admit it sometimes.

    The other 1/3rds of the audience is of course the older cinemagoers like myself, and to me this film felt like that pudding my mother makes that doesn’t even taste as good as the stuff that comes in cans, yet I’ll always prefer it because it reminds me of happy times in my childhood. Damn, I’m waxing lyrical here.

    “White House Down” is a reminder to the older cinemagoer that sometimes it pays to be less cynical. I could watch this again tomorrow and enjoy it just as much. And it doesn’t matter at all that the characters are cliches, or that the scoring can be overblown, or that it takes a while to get to the action, or that there are frequent moments of utter stupidity (my favorite was definitely the flag moment, although there are plenty of little touches too: anybody else notice the guy fall through a bulletproof glass window by learning on it?)

    Emmerich is that rare filmmaker whose work actually suffers from deviating from the familiar. When he tries to do something new or original, his limitations become painfully obvious. But give him something like this and I think you get the best out of him. This is easily my favorite experience with an Emmerich movie since “Independance Day”.

  61. How can this movie be so full of contradictions? It’s an Emmerich movie but surprisingly low on spectacle and trailer-ready moneyshots. It’s a buddy movie but the two buddies have precious little screentime together and no chemistry. It takes forever to get started and lays down a ton of exposition and “character development” but we still don’t know the characters at all. And finally the action sequences are classically and coherently shot and edited with no shakycam, but none of the action is well-done or exciting.

    It’s just a misfire all around – there’s no creativity in the terrorist takeover, the twists, or the villain deaths. Everything is perfunctory at best. I think the complaints of the PG-13 come from the fact that the violence feels EXTREMELY sanitized. Bourne and Captain America 2 showed there can be plenty of hard-hitting, brutal action in a PG-13 involving guns, fists, and knives. White House Down involves a character getting shot point blank in the chest with a mini-gun for what seems like 10 seconds and not a drop of blood is spilled. The less said about the tour guide character and the Steve Zahn-wannabe terrorist (or the computer hacker wearing the turtleneck) the better.

    I’m also still scratching my head at the usage of Street Fighting Man during the end credits. I mean, with the London references and calls to revolution, I can see why it was used in V for Vendetta, but I have no idea why it was used here, except it sounds cool. Nobody even fights anyone on the street.

  62. This will likely come as a surprise to no one here, but NEXT INDEPENDENCE DAY is terrible. Any talent Emmerich may, *may* have had for staging or suspense or spectacle in the 90s is long, long gone. There’s the odd novel idea, but none are well utilised, and often not even coherently realised; I’m not even 100% sure if some major characters died! It’s a powerful warning against the dangers of nostalgia for mediocrity; yes, it’s kind of cool that Goldblum, Spiner, Pullman and Hirsch are front-lining a $200million movie in 2016, but quite while you’re ahead and stick to the trailer. None of them can offset the charisma vacuum of Budget-Hemsworth anyway. By comparison the original is JAWS, JURASSIC WORLD (which I thoroughly enjoyed) was a smart, nuanced revival and BATMAN V SUPERMAN is a bold artistic statement. This film is a better advert for the wearying cultural dominance of superhero films than the finest Marvel or DC have had to offer; an alternative reality where this is the standard Hollywood Blockbuster is too depressing to contemplate.

  63. I think I’ll check out ID5. Simply because people I know told me there was a giant spider like alien and some crazy ship that dumps the debris of fallen cities on other cities. Plus Jeff Goldblum and Data. It’s not like INDEPENDENCE DAY was some genuine classic. It was good schlock with classic moments of spectacle.

    I know what to expect from Emmerich at this point. Going all the way back to UNIVERSAL SOLDIER. So I go in expecting nothing and sometimes get something cause the effects and cgi mayhem was wild enough. Sometimes I need that. The one thing though is that that’s all he’s got and I rarely see his flicks more than once. Excepting STARGATE and VAN DAMME V DOLPH of course.

    I don’t think ANOTHER INDEPENDENCE DAY will be STARGATE range but if it’s at least 2012 or THE DAY AFTER TOMORROW level I’m cool with it cause I enjoyed that shit on the big screen for what it was. I’m not expecting Jim Cameron level blockbuster filmmaking or some shit. Just a decent effects showcase in AC.

  64. This is probably suicide here, but… I actually had a lot of fun with ID5. I never said I was a role model, but if you would enjoy a movie called INDEPENDENCE DAY: RESURGENCE, you will probably like this movie called INDEPENDENCE DAY: RESURGENCE. At the very least, you gotta enjoy a huge-spectacle movie which delivers the special effects goods without a single frame of shaky cam. Yes, it’s corny and ridiculous, but complaining that Emmerich is corny and ridiculous is like complaining that Michael Bay is hateful and facile. Of course he is, but that’s why his movies are great. He’s one of the last truly unironic people in the motion picture business.

    In addition to a fun cast (other-Hemsworth is no Will Smith, but he gets the job done well enough), I respect that they seemed to make a genuine effort to not just replay the greatest hits from the first one. There aren’t a ton of callbacks or repeats of sequences from the first one, they seem to genuinely be trying to find new (and even more ridiculous) setpieces, the highlight (or lowlight, if you aren’t on the movie’s wavelength) being the outrageous finale, which is genuinely unlike anything from the first one. Now, I admit that I have a genetic defect which makes me unable to resist the lure of Emmerich’s cheerfully earnest brain-melting overkill, but this is, to me, what dumb summer movies are all about. It’s not as well structured as the original, and is probably just a hair too breezy for its own good, but you get what you pay for here, which is honestly pretty rare in studio franchise sequels. Say what you will about Emmerich’s taste, he has a surprisingly sharp grasp of classic big-budget fundamentals, and a rare ability to deliver the goods in their most pristine form.

  65. IMO 2012 was significantly better; the set-pieces were actually exciting there. THE DAY AFTER TOMORROW was, from memory, even more tedious to me (although I didn’t see it in the cinema), so if you enjoyed that you might enjoy this.

  66. I recently realized that for a director, who is such a big name, Emmerich’s pre-hollywood output is surprisingly obscure. Even here in Germany. I remember that JOEY was on TV several times in the late 80s and MOON 44 was a small hit when it came out, but all in all, it seems like the world forgot that he made movies before UNIVERSAL SOLDIER. One should think that every time another Emmerich joint hits theatres, some b-grade home video label would dig out his old stuff, but I’m not even sure if HOLLYWOOD MONSTER was ever relased on DVD.

    (Disclaimer: I’m not saying that these movies are really worth being remembered. But I do have a soft spot for HIGH CRUSADE, which he only produced.)

  67. Unrelated, but as Pauls Village is no longer part of EU where does that leave us?

  68. Whatever you think of James Woods and his personal life or political views and whatnot, I think we can all agree on something – Where the hell was THIS James Woods during White House Down?!?!?

    James Woods Cheers Dropped Appeal from Dead Defendant in $10M Defamation Suit

    The actor tweeted that he hoped the man died "screaming my name."

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