White House Down (2013)
White House Down (2013)

Genre: Action Running Time: 2 hrs. 11 min.

Release Date: June 28th, 2013 MPAA Rating: PG-13

Director: Roland Emmerich Actors: Channing Tatum, Jamie Foxx, Maggie Gyllenhaal, Jason Clarke, Richard Jenkins, Joey King, James Woods, Rachelle Lefevre

 


 

T

he comparisons to “Die Hard” are substantial, yet when “White House Down” sagaciously sticks to the ‘80s action movie formula, it assembles an enjoyable escapist adventure that yields a surprising dose of humor with its thrills. Restraint has never been one of director Roland Emmerich’s strengths, and here such indiscretion is both abundantly clear and a bane to the believability of an already outlandish premise. Brainless action flicks aren’t required to exude the utmost solemnity, but when the jokes outweigh the gravity of the situations presented, and every character introduced gets their own stab at a punch line, the overall effectiveness of the humor transitions from jocosity to tedium. Before that’s allowed to happen though, and prior to the preposterously overdramatic conclusion, “White House Down” sneaks in a modicum of competency thanks to actors that know how to handle themselves in a frivolous summer blockbuster.

Attempting to reconnect with his estranged 11-year-old daughter Emily (Joey King), Capitol policeman John Cale (Channing Tatum) lets the young political enthusiast tag along with him to the White House for his job interview with Secret Service agent Carol Finnerty (Maggie Gyllenhaal). But when the building comes under attack by terrorists, John is cut off from his daughter, and in his efforts to reunite with her he interferes with former Secret Service leader Martin Walker’s (James Woods) sinister plot to kidnap President Sawyer (Jamie Foxx). Now, Cale must attempt to not only rescue his daughter from the clutches of a madman, but also protect the President while fending off Walker’s heavily armed mercenaries.

“White House Down” has to be one of the most extreme examples of moviemaking refusing to take itself seriously. In fact, it pokes fun at its subjects, characters, and environments to the point of utter farce. Nearly every role contributes to comic relief, while countless moments inspire unintentional comedy. Despite depicting a presidential hostage situation, none of the characters tackle the material honestly, leaving the audience to digest every retaliatory progression with more and more disbelief.

By the end of the film, the arena of ludicrous activities is so populous, it’s exasperating keeping track: the dispatching of baddies resembles a video game; the chain of henchmen compete aimlessly for attention and eccentricity (it’s great to see James Woods as a villain, however); and the counterparts to personas in “Die Hard” are agonizingly obvious. “We’re in the safest house in the world,” insists Donnie (Nicolas Wright) the tour guide, just before all hell breaks loose; here’s a character who continues to have a major part as a comedian long after his welcome is outstayed. Every scene keeps redoubling the movie into intensified silliness until everything is basically just a joke. Since it’s not an outright comedy, “White House Down” strives for an incongruous amount of humor.

Channing Tatum is acceptable as an action star, but far from believable as a father. This is quickly overtaken by Foxx’s inability to convince as a president; initially he’s vulnerable and frail, but within short time, the adventurous hero he’s been concealing is unleashed. Apparently adrenaline evokes skills. At least director Roland Emmerich is back to demolishing national landmarks and relying heavily on exposing secreted aspects of political intrigue. The reproduction of the White House and its various locations are astonishing, in line with the special effects utilized to reduce it to rubble. Dozens of sets were painstakingly built, with input by the White House Historical Society, and it shows admirably through every minute detail. Unfortunately, all the research and construction feels wasted on the over-the-top, hopelessly goofy execution of a recycled plot.

– The Massie Twins

  • 3/10