(US - 2013)
Directed by Roland Emmerich. Written by James Vanderbilt. Cast: Channing Tatum, Jamie Foxx, James Woods, Maggie Gyllenhaal, Jason Clarke, Richard Jenkins, Joey King, Michael Murphy, Jimmi Simpson, Nicolas Wright, Rachelle Lefevre, Lance Reddick, Matt Craven, Jake Weber, Barbara Williams, Garcelle Beauvais, Peter Jacobson, Kevin Rankin, Falk Hentschel, Andrew Simms. (PG-13, 132 mins)
It always helps when a dumb action movie knows it's a dumb action movie. WHITE HOUSE DOWN, the latest from director/Washington, DC destruction fetishist Roland Emmerich, was beaten to theaters by the very similar "DIE HARD IN THE WHITE HOUSE"-themed OLYMPUS HAS FALLEN, but overall, it's the more enjoyable movie, benefitting significantly from not taking itself so seriously. Aside from some unconvincing CGI explosions that seem to be an unfortunate necessity these days, Emmerich keeps things refreshingly, almost quaintly old-school in terms of style and direction. When's the last time you saw a big-budget action movie that didn't have blurry shaky-cam and constant video-game zooms? With a couple of exceptions, the action sequences in WHITE HOUSE DOWN are straightforwardly constructed and best of all, coherent. It's a sad statement on modern moviemaking when stable camera operation and coherent editing are in such low supply that they have to be specifically singled out for praise on one of the rare occasions that they occur, but I'll take what I can get.
Emmerich and screenwriter James Vanderbilt (ZODIAC) leave no cliché unutilized as divorced Capitol cop John Cale (Channing Tatum) and his estranged, politically-astute 11-year-old daughter Emily (Joey King) go on a White House tour only to end up in the middle of an attack against President James Sawyer (Jamie Foxx), pulled off by the chief of his security detail, retiring Agent Walker (James Woods). Walker, enraged that his Marine son was killed in a botched, Sawyer-ordered covert ops mission in Afghanistan, has commissioned a team of mercenary domestic terrorists and right-wing militia goons led by Stenz (Jason Clarke) to hold the President hostage in exchange for $400 million and the President's nuclear launch codes. Separated from the tour group and from his daughter, Cale manages to rescue the captive Sawyer from the PEOC bunker as Walker and Stenz pursue the pair through the White House. Meanwhile, House Speaker Raphelson (Richard Jenkins), Joint Chiefs chair Gen. Caulfield (Lance Reddick), and Agent Finnerty (Maggie Gyllenhaal), who of course, knew Cale in college, try to sort out the situation as Vice President Hammond (Michael Murphy) is taken up in Air Force Two and prepped to assume command.
dressing-downs that always seem to start with "OK, listen up, Junior..." And I haven't even mentioned a late plot twist that plays out in the most laugh-out-loud, SCOOBY-DOO-meets-SNL way possible, stopping just short of the plan's true mastermind raising his fist and grumbling "And I would've gotten away with it if it weren't for your meddling, Magic Mike!"