Friday, March 14, 2014

White House Down

Directed by Roland Emmerich.
2013. Rated R, 131 minutes.
Joey King
Nicolas Wright
Michael Murphy
Rachelle Lefevre

Agent John Cale (Tatum) works on the security detail for Speaker of the House Eli Raphelson (Jenkins). Through some favors, he got that job and finagles his way into an interview for a position in the Secret Service at the White House, because that's really how you get a job guarding the most powerful men in the free world. It so happens that the person interviewing him, Agent Finnerty (Gyllenhaal), is an ex-girlfriend from college. Given that, and a spotty work history, he doesn't get hired. Since his daughter is a political buff and absolutely adores Pres. James W. Sawyer (Foxx), he brought her along and she gets separated from him because she has to make a trip to the restroom. Wouldn't ya know it? This is precisely when all hell breaks loose as terrorists storm the property, guns blazing. Pretty soon, Cale realizes he's the only one who can save both his daughter and the Chief Executive.

To my surprise, White House Down takes a little longer to kick into high gear than expected. This is actually a good thing. These early scenes establish our characters nicely and are fairly funny. The mood is kept light and wee see the bad guys moving into position. During this time, star Channing Tatum exudes the easy charm, and yes ladies, the movie star looks that have made him famous. Co-star Jamie Foxx isn't bad, but seems to be caught in a bit of a conundrum. It appears he is unsure how much Pres. Obama should be in his character. He vacillates between impersonation and doing his own thing. Like Tatum, though, he has a natural charm that pulls him through without being too big a detriment.

Once the fireworks start, this is solid turn-your-brain-off fare that never threatens to get too heavy. It doesn't attempt to brow-beat you into a flag waving frenzy, either. That last thing is a huge problem with this movie's barely older twin sister, Olympus Has Fallen. I am an American, proud to be one. Still, movies that are relentlessly heavy-handed tend to leave me cold, regardless of how great its message. Thankfully, that isn't the case with WHD. Sure, there is some overt patriotism going on, but it feels organic to the plot, not the product of overbearing propagandists. It just follows two guys, one of whom happens to be the President of the United States, as they try to maneuver their way out of the White House even though bad guys control the premises. They have a nice chemistry which certainly helps. And yup, not only does everything go boom all around them, they make plenty of things go boom themselves.

The villain does the usual ranting and raving, plus their is plenty of in-fighting with his team. Meanwhile, the secondary characters on the good side do the prerequisite hand wringing. It's all pretty much par for the course. The only standout being the overall quality of the cast. Even though it is just a big, dumb action flick, they bring the goods.

Where the movie strains just a bit is when it over-twists itself. It spends lots of time building up one character as our bad guy, giving him a detailed backstory and the whatnot. Eventually, as must always be the case, we switch gears and find out there's someone else involved. Normally, this would be fine. Here, it occurs so late in the proceedings we get almost nothing about him that matters. It's not quite a deal breaker, but it does take some air out of the balloon.

Plot malfunctions aside, we still have a fun ride on our hands. It's got loads of action, it's goofy at times, and genuinely humorous at others. Our two leads work together very easily. I wouldn't mind seem them together again. Maybe they can do a buddy-cop movie or something, not a sequel. We don't need a part two. However, I did have a good t ime watching this. Without the Kong-like chest-thumping of Olympus Has Fallen, I felt free to just enjoy it, not be brow-beaten by it. I understand lots of people didn't like WHD. After all, it is loud and stupid. You know what, though? It works for me.

MY SCORE: 6.5/10

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