By Mark Saldana 

Rating: 2 (Out of 4 Stars)

This movie really does not feel like an Antoine Fuqua picture. I would expect something of this caliber from directors like Roland Emmerich or Michael Bay.  Although not all of his films are winners, Fuqua has made some solid, gritty crime films such as Training Day and Brooklyn’s Finest.  This Gerard Butler action vehicle plays out more like a Die Hard knock off with cliché writing and characters and ridiculous writing. The script by Creighton Rothenberger and Katrin Benedict certainly is a stinker. The only saving graces in the film are Butler’s badassery and some descent action sequences during the middle of the film.

Butler portrays former Secret Service agent Mike Banning. When the White House comes under attack by North Korean terrorists, Banning has to abandon his desk job at the Treasury Department to rescue President Benjamin Asher (Aaron Eckhart) and his son Connor (Finley Jacobson)  who are both trapped in the presidential home.  The terrorist leader Kang (Rick Yune) and his team hold the President and some key members of his cabinet and security in the President’s underground bunker until their list of demands are met.  Banning, who once was the president’s top protector uses his knowledge of the White House and security protocol to save the president before it is too late.

The film features some ridiculous and incredulous scenarios that left me feeling insulted. The beginning raid on Washington happens way too fast and easily. The president’s real security will also probably feel insulted if they watch this mockery of their skills.  Seriously, the filmmakers make the Secret Service (save Butler’s character) appear so weak and inept. Also, I find it hard to believe the time frame of the siege, as boasted by Kang, the film’s villain. The film does regain my interest when it becomes an action-thriller during the middle of the story.  This sequence of events when Banning enters the White House and starts taking out the baddies is the best part of the film.  The film loses me again during the climax and conclusion when things once again embrace stupidity.

Most of the cast offers fine performances. Butler does what he does best here. He is an excellent action hero. Kicking ass, taking names, dropping some awesome lines, the man has it down. He plays the rock-solid tough guy when necessary and can use his charm and charisma well in the lighter moments.  Aaron Eckhart doesn’t particularly stand out here as the president, but performs adequately. Rick Yune falls a bit flat as a cold and uninteresting villain. Melissa Leo is nearly unrecognizable as the Secretary of State, but does a fine job portraying a tough and earthy cabinet member.  The film also features Dylan McDermott, Morgan Freeman, and Angela Bassett who have little to do in the film except react in awe and give blank stares.  Freeman’s skills as an orator are in great display in one scene where he must give a public address as the acting president.

So even though the movie has a great cast and a solid director at the helm, the terrible script is the root of the problem here. I do not recommend spending money to see this film in the theater.  I would wait to rent it or catch it on pay-TV. It has so little to offer, therefore,  not worth the high prices of movie tickets these days.

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