Movie Review: White House Down
Explosions, terrorists and the White House under attack? Sounds like a good formula for an action movie right? White House Down tries put all these elements together and keep the audience engaged. I’m not sure they expected what came out on the other end.
Tatum plays John Cale a twenty-something divorced father and former military. Due to some of the things he did on one of his Afghanistan tours he is on the private detail of the Speaker of the House, Eli Raphelson (Richard Jenkins). After a disastrous job interview with Agent Finnerty (Maggie Gyllenhaal) whom it turns out they know each other from high school, he realizes his chance of being a secret service agent is dead in the water. Because he wants to make his daughter Emily (Joey King) to like him, he tells her the odds are good and then as they are leaving they get to take a tour of the White House. Emily conveniently loves all things politics, knows tons about the White House and adores President Sawyer (Jamie Foxx). She also has a blog and a YouTube channel because terms of service rules be damned!
We already know from the opening that retiring Agent Walker (James Woods) is going to be the bad guy here. He gets a montage in the beginning that there’s no way you can miss he’s going to be up to no good later. After his retirement party he manages to, with a very small crew of hired guns take over the White House. This is when it all starts to veer off path. Not to be confused with Olympus Has Fallen from earlier this year. That one had a former secret service agent who fights his way back into the White House. This time we have an aspiring Secret Service Agent, his too cool for her parents 11 year old daughter Emily and they are already inside on a tour.
The ‘terrorists” this time around are home grown. The group consists of Emil, (Jason Clarke) former Delta Force who the US left stranded and in a foreign prison, Tyler (Jimmi Simpson) hacker extraordinaire who dresses like Andy Warhol, a tea party loving, Fox News devotee who’s trigger happy, and several other people all on the threat list and US citizens. They manage to take the White House from the inside with no weapons, they are posing as the installation crew who are building the First Lady a new movie theater. The manage to take down every other officer they encounter picking up guns as they go before securing the building and bringing in the additional crew from outside. They wear masks inconsistently and nobody has body armor? The action ebbs and flows frequently through this film but so do the jokes and I mean there are lots of them. There were no gasps or even cool looks with the action but the audience was laughing hysterically throughout much of this movie. This is why it fails. Its so funny that the action is rendered cartoonish and it shouldn’t be. Building blows up, Channing makes a stupid joke. Two people fight, the President realizes he can’t see without his glasses to shoot straight. There is a very thin line when trying to add a level of comedy to an action film, this piles in so much the action gets lost amongst the comedy. Is White House Down funny? Absolutely. Was it a good movie? Not by any stretch.
Channing Tatum does what he does best here. He’s in a wife-beater more than half the film, he makes comments which makes him the butt of jokes and he fights. I’ve see far too much of him in the past 2 years from action to indie and lets be honest this is what he’s good at. He shines in White House Down. Jamie Foxx on the other hand should have never agreed to be in this film. This role is beneath him. He breaks character from time to time, can’t decide where he wants to go with this and while he has good on screen chemistry with Tatum that’s about the extent of it. If they wanted to go full comedy I might have enjoyed it more, you feel they attempt to pull back on the jokes at weird times but because it was already so heavy it didn’t work well. White House Down tipped the scales here and not in a good way.
My Rating: Redbox
Director: Roland Emmerich
Studio: Columbia Pictures
Release Date: June 28, 2013
Run time: 2 hours 11 minutes
MPAA Rating: PG-13