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Star-Spangled stinker

Olympus Has Fallen
DIRECTED BY: Antoine Fuqua
STARRING: Gerard Butler, Aaron Eckhart, Morgan Freeman
CERT: 15A

THE US President (Aaron Eckhart), the First Lady (Ashley Judd) and their young son Connor (Finley Jacobsen) are at Camp David, getting ready to attend a billionaire’s ball. Mike Banning (Butler) is the Secret Service agent in charge of the main man’s security detail. He’s also clearly a close family friend.

On the way to the ball, there’s a tragic accident on an icy road. Afterwards, Banning becomes the fall guy, exiled to a desk job in the Treasury Department. Eighteen months down the road, he’s still not taking it well, sitting on the sidelines while his old buddies work the big jobs – like their latest, overseeing a visit to the White House by a delegation of South Korean ministers.

All of this happens in the first 15 minutes, when Olympus Has Fallen is a serious and interesting political drama – well written, nicely played and directed with a steady hand by the man who made the excellent Training Day. Looks promising.

And then, all of a sudden, the film becomes a comedy.

While the President meets his visitors, a hijacked military transport plane starts raining down destruction on Washington, having magically avoided detection until it’s within spitting distance of the White House. When fighter jets attempt to intercept, it beams out a Flash Gordon force field and continues on its merry way.

Simultaneously, a convoy of bin lorries turns up on Pennsylvania Avenue, fitted out with large blazing guns, providing cover while a bunch of gun-toting boyos storm the White House lawn. For good measure – or perhaps in case everyone else misses – a couple of suicide bombers arrive at the gates. 

By the time it’s all over, the Washington Monument is down, the White House is in tatters and every Secret Service agent in town is dead. Because, when the President’s house is under attack, these guys are trained to run out the front door, wave after mindless wave of them, headlong into the line of fire. Worse than that – much, much worse – the Star-Spangled Banner has been shot to shreds and torn down. Oh and a dog has been killed. The monsters!

Meanwhile the President and his staff, along with their special guests, have been taken to the secure White House bunker, for their safety. But, wouldn’t you know it, they have just locked themselves in with the
villains, a right sneaky shower of North Koreans with nuclear holocaust on their minds.

Ah but, perhaps because Die Hard never made it to the multiplexes of Pyongyang, these boys are unaware that it only takes one fine American to bring down a whole terrorist army. Mike Banning is back on the job.
Sure it’s only hilarious altogether. It would probably be even funnier if anyone on screen – let alone director Antoine Fuqua and his debut screenwriters Katrin Benedikt and Creighton Rothenberger – actually realised they were making a comedy.

There might have been a few intentionally funny lines here and there and the cast might have made a point of playing it for laughs. Speaker of the House Morgan Freeman, for instance, might have had a little twinkle in his eye when he solemnly intoned as Doomsday dawned, “He’s just opened the gates of hell!”

But no and there’s no ominous computer voice informing us thereafter that, “The United States of America… will… self destruct… in… seven… seconds.”

No, there’s none of that, because everyone concerned is taking this really, really seriously. Along with Freeman (he’s not the President but really he is anyway), Robert Forster, Angela Bassett and Melissa Leo are among the heavyweights with deeply furrowed brows – and in Leo’s case, badly busted ribs.

Olympus is quite the violent movie, all the hilarity aside and if the film itself has shades of an old fashioned Cold War thriller, there’s nothing old-fashioned about the way so many of its characters die. Gerard Butler’s hero, for example, has a fondness for stabbing his enemies in the brain.

By the time the credits roll on this immensely foolish affair, you might feel like you’ve been on the receiving end of his handiwork.


Evil Dead
DIRECTED BY: Fede
Alvarez
STARRING: Jane Levy, Shiloh Fernanddez, Jessica Lucas, Lou Taylor Pucci, Elizabeth Blackmore
CERT: 18

SAM Raimi gave his blessing for this remake of his 1981 horror classic, coming on board as a producer along with original star Bruce Campbell. Well, good for them. The movie is still pretty mediocre.

Five twenty-somethings head off to a cabin in the woods, where Mia (Levy) will attempt to kick the dope.

While she does, schoolteacher Eric (Pucci) explores the basement and finds an ancient book, wrapped in barbed wire, made of skin and written in what appears to be blood. Naturally, he opens it and starts to read. Aloud.

Well, devils are duly loosed and they set up home in Mia who starts wailing and puking for a world medal. But she’s in cold turkey, so she’s bound to be acting a bit weird, right? Nothing to worry about at all.

That’s a nice enough idea to throw in there and director Fede Alvarez plays it well up to a point. But once he starts in with the blood and gore and the demons really start going to town, it all gets a little bit tiresome. Crucially, it has little of the original’s comic edge.

A remake was never going to top Raimi’s cult masterpiece, but it’s disappointing that this falls so far short.

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