White House Down – 2.5/5 – Movie Reviews by Ry!

whiteWhite House Down – 2.5/5 – So bad, it is good; this is a statement you hear when referencing specific, if not outrageous films.  There are good films, and bad films, but there are those that are just so over-the-top, that they entertain in the simplistic and dumbfounded appeal they introduce on the screen.  White House Down is one of those films that, is littered with so much conventional banter of ridiculousness that it slightly entertains, even if it shouldn’t.  Overall, White House Down is a popcorn flick to the fullest, but one that fails on so many scales, even if it’s watchable.

Premise: Capitol Policeman and ex military John Cale has just been denied his dream job with the Secret Service; protecting President James Sawyer.  Not wanting to be the bearer of bad news, he takes his daughter on a tour of the White House.  What becomes of a normal day turns for the worst, when it is overtaken by a heavily armed paramilitary group.  With the nation’s government beginning to crumble, it is up to Cale to save the president, his daughter, and the country.

At the heart of this film, is the two main leads.  We have ex-soldier turned policeman John Cale (Channing Tatum) and President James Sawyer (Jamie Foxx).   In the lead role of John Cale, Channing Tatum shows that he can carry a film as an action hero.  He is thrust into the action because of awkward circumstances (applying for a secret service position) and from there, it is pretty much him wielding guns, fighting stupid bad guys and delivering cheesy one-liners.  Here you see that, even for the lame dialogue and premise, Tatum can be charming on screen, and witty in his interaction with other characters, good or bad.  Jamie Foxx as President Sawyer is also thrust into the awkward circumstance, becoming a tag team partner with Cale on his quest to saving him, his daughter and everyone trapped in the White House.  Here, he gives us delightful and a decent character with his great acting skills, even when the dialgoue is cringing to say the least.  What makes the film go is these two guys, and their chemistry with each other on screen.  They are so good, that the lameness of everything just subside, and you enjoy watching them trek across the White House, trying to save the day.  Outside of these two, everyone else is typecast and one-dimensional.  We have the lead bad guys; Walker (James Woods) and Stenz (Jason Clarke), secret service agent Finery (Maggie Gyllenhaal), Speaker of the House Raphelson (Richard Jenkins) and Cale’s daughter (Joey King) To name a few.  They embrace the tacky feeling of their characters, and play them as cookie cutter as you can; even if there isn’t any depth in their execution.  There isn’t really anything bad about these characters, but the fact they tried to be serious cheapens the effectiveness of their roles, showing the films flaws.  When it comes to the rest of the supporting cast, you have your typical ‘hostages’, dumfounded bad guys, ominous government officials and military, and the aloof comical relief, in the form as the white house tour guides and news agency anchors.  There isn’t anything to be impressed or entertain by, as they are just plot devices to move the story along.

When it comes to the direction, it follows the standard disaster theme, to an extent.  I say to an extent because the director tries to inject elements of drama and serious development of John Cale’s back history, drawing a web to connect to all the other characters.  From the introduction, Cale and his daughter don’t have the best of relationships.  Cale decides to bring her daughter, an aficionado of all things government, to the White house for Cale interview to become a Secret Service Agent.  After this interview, they get trapped within the white house, as it is taken over by a rag team of ‘sinister’ bad guys that holds everyone hostage for money.   From this introduction of the character, this causes a hedge of confusing tones, as the film begins to flip between the simple disaster setup and character development of Cale, not trying to let one theme encompass the films progress, causing a disjointed of the film’s direction, as well as a decent flow of the story’s progress.  Another thing that causes even more disjointed is the forced comical one liners that seem good ‘on the surface’, but most of the time make you have the ‘what the’ effect.  The cliché nature of the film causes both the comedy and drama to feel stale, as you predict the motives of people, and see how things are conveniently placed for the bad guys to take control, and Cale to go to work to ‘save the day’.  Once the first act ends, and the second act begins, the buddy duo of Cale and Sawyer take effect, as they tag team to figure out how to get rid of the bad guys, save the hostages and Cale’s daughter.  From this point, the film becomes a little more entertaining, even if it is still unsurprising.  The film becomes to flow better, and actually shows the limelight of something fun because of the chemistry between the two leads, Cale and Sawyer.  The charisma of both helps make the funny out of the unfunny, and the action have real raw intensity.  Through it, you get big explosions, epic fight scenes and crazy stunts from car chases, helicopters crashing and people just jumping out of windows.  After the ‘mindless’ sensation wares off, the film tries to turn up the ‘serious’ tone in the third act, as the ‘obvious’ reason of the bad guys purpose comes to the forefront.  Still predictable, you have a standard ‘save the day’ scenario, and everything seems like peaches and cream, till the ending happens.  If it wasn’t for the ending, the film would have been rated higher.

The visuals of the film are a great spotlight of the film.  From the creation of D.C., and it’s destruction at the capitol and White house, everything felt real and believable, for the most part.  With set pieces of what the white house looks like, to the lawn, presidential vehicles, military gear and weapons, everything was intriguing to see, but nothing you haven’t seen before.  The score was encompassing, but didn’t do anything to help the film.

Overall, White House Down is your standard blockbuster that is bad on all angles, but has enough to make it watchable.  A lot of people are going to compare this to Olympus Has Fallen (since it is pretty much the same premise) but there is one difference.  Olympus knew what it was, and stuck to its guns.  This movie tried to inject too much into a simple premise, that it was all convoluted.  If you’re a fan of the actors, or just want to watch some mindless fun at the movies, go watch this film.

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