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Friday, June 28, 2013

White House Down Review. Senseless Action Stupidity That's Missing Any Semblance Of Heart

White House Down Review
By: MattInRC

Does the second White House invasion flick this year demonstrate its necessity, or should Hollywood stop sleeping with itself? Read more to find out.

Hollywood is in the business of making entertainment that sometimes finds itself in bed with mirror images of itself. Think Tombstone and Wyatt Earp, both featuring the famous Texas lawman and released in 1993, or 1998's Deep Impact and Armaggedon, neither of which was worth the time. Apparently, Hollywood didn't think we had experienced enough White House invasion films in 2013 with Olympus Has Fallen, as another one in White House Down is about to be released. Unfortunately, one was definitely enough.

Low-man on the Capitol Police totem pole John Cale (Channing Tatum, GI Joe: Rise of Cobra) visits the White House to interview for a job as a Secret Service agent, only to be rebuffed by Agent Finnerty (Maggie Gyllenhaal, The Dark Knight) for being too working class. With hat in hand, he's dragged through a White House tour by his daughter Emily (Joey King), who's still suffering from her parents' painful breakup. It's here that Emily and John come face to face with President Sawyer (Jamie Foxx, Collateral), who's just announced that he intends to pull all US troops out of the Middle East. This triggers an explosive reaction by the FBI's Rogues Galley of home-grown terrorists, who have teamed up behind the former black ops solider Stenz (Jason Clarke, Zero Dark Thirty) to rob the country and burn it down at the same time. Cue blazing guns, a POTUS rescue mission gone bad, and the John McClane-ish Cale, who must protect the President at all costs while rescuing his now-captive daughter.

Unlike Gerard Butler's Olympus which featured a somewhat realistic concept and solid acting, White House Down is almost a parody, existing as an over-the-top action/dramedy that insensitively mocks a devastating attack on our nation's capitol. It's that tonal difference which lent credence to Olympus as a mostly plausible exercise, and what kills WHD. The King of Disaster Films - Director Roland Emmerich (2012) - doesn't fashion WHD around any sort of realism, including a highly dangerous flyby over the Lincoln Memorial which Foxx laughingly refers to as the 'thing.' But it's also the way he ignores basic human drama here that disappoints. Granted, it's not like Emmerich has ever made a realistic movie about people in dangerous situations, so why start here? But unlike 2012 and The Day After Tomorrow, which at least featured some character development, WHD leaves all of that to other films, surrounding us in goofy dialogue about characters we ultimately could care less about. When Air Force One is knocked out of the sky, and dozens of White House personnel are needlessly offed by our home-grown terrorists, we don't feel anything for the victims.

This sort of careless mishap was written by James Vanderbilt (The Amazing Spider-man, Losers), who also seems to favor spectacle over substance. The usually enjoyable Foxx just never clicked for me as President Wagner, possibly due to his youthful appearance or Vanderbilt's de-fanging of Foxx's character into someone who's never served in the military and could somehow benefit from a good home invasion. Tatum, an action hero still in waiting, doesn't yet have the gravitas of a Bruce Willis ala Die Hard to react appropriately enough to his daughter's capture, while Gyllenhaal is the only one awake enough to utter her lines with any level of interest. Don't get me wrong: the idea of Summer and movie smash-ups go hand-in-hand; but Emmerich has made better, and with arguably the best cast he's ever had, the effect here is lost.

White House Down could have been so much more - a truly epic invasion film with a human story to tell - had our creative team gave us character development to match the ferocity of the action. Instead, we're left with a silly, ridiculous flick that's missing any semblance of a soul. In a Summer season with a lot to prove, this film utterly disappoints. White House Down is rated PG-13 and has a runtime of 131 minutes.

Discuss this review with fellow SJF fans on Facebook. On Twitter, follow us at @SandwichJohnFilms, and follow author Matt Cummings at @mfc90125.

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