Opening 13 Jun 2013
It’s uncanny. Did director Antoine Fuqua anticipate that North Korea would be rattling its atomic weapons just around the time of this movie’s release? Did Fuqua have insider information that on April 23 a hacked AP twitter account reporting the bombing of the White House would send the New York Stock exchange plummeting, wiping out $136 billion? Who needs costly promotion for a movie when the parallel paths of world events and fantasy intersect?
Former U.S. Army Ranger Mike Banning (Gerard Butler) is the lead Secret Service agent assigned to protect President Benjamin Asher (Aaron Eckhart). Mike becomes extremely attached to the Asher family, including his son Connor (Finley Jacobsen). A car accident in which Mike tragically cannot save the life of the First Lady (Ashley Judd) changes everything. Mike is banished from the White House and demoted to a tedious assignment in the Treasury Department.
Eighteen months later Mike is back at his job, once again protecting President Asher and Connor. This time it’s unofficial. North Korean terrorists have bombed the White House (code-named Olympus) and are holding President Asher and members of his cabinet hostage in the White House bunker. Hundreds of security guards have been mowed down, the Seals have been blown out of the sky, and only Mike is left to single-handedly save the president. The North Korean renegade Kang (Rick Yune) has deviously masterminded and brilliantly executed a plot to kidnap the president. He is motivated by the hope of the reunification of Korea, a rather benign wish when compared to his other plan, to turn the USA into a radioactive wasteland. Meanwhile, in a safe location the wise, soft-spoken, elder statesman, Speaker of the House Trumball (Morgan Freeman being Morgan Freeman), presides as the acting president waiting for Mike to save the day. It is quite amazing how many enemy combatants Mike masterfully eliminates, even smashing one foe with a bust of Lincoln.
High levels of brutality dominate this action-thriller. There is such an obsession with blood, guts, and gore that believability in the plot dissipates in a rampage of death and destruction. The stirrings of love of country are meant to surge in the hearts of all red-blooded Americans upon seeing their flag desecrated, the White House burning, and the Washington Monument being toppled. The movie embraces super patriotism where only excessive violence and hate-filled retaliation can bring back America’s honor. This is an ugly America set on vengeance. If you are looking for an intelligent, realistic action-thriller, look elsewhere. (Pat Frickey)