For those who were psyched by the prospect of seeing a new Die Hard movie this spring, but were disappointed by A Good Day to Die Hard, good news: Olympus Has Fallen is exactly the sort of silly, third rate, ridiculously enjoyable Die Hard knock-off that A Good Day to Die Hard should have been.
This may come as a bit of a surprise given that the whole “Die Hard in the White House” was done before in season 7 of 24 and that Gerard Butler is no substitute for Kiefer Sutherland. But thanks to the glorious incompetence of first time screenwriters Creighton Rothenberger and Katrin Benedikt, Olympus Has Fallen is a preposterous, deliriously entertaining mess that makes the White House hostage crisis in 24 look like a documentary.
The movie begins with the president (Aaron Eckhart) boxing in the official Camp David boxing ring with his favourite secret service agent, Mike Banner (Butler). But Banner doesn’t remain the president’s favourite secret service agent for very long. On the way back from Camp David, the president’s car accidentally swerves off a bridge, and although Banner manages to get the president out in time, the first lady plummets to her death. As a result, Banner is forced out of the secret service and becomes a private security consultant.
It’s at this point that the movie gets extremely silly extremely fast. If you thought that the “North Korea launches full scale attack on American soil” plot from the Red Dawn remake was implausible, the screenwriters of Olympus Has Fallen do that movie one better: the White House is attacked not by North Korea, but by a North Korean terrorist organization which, while not affiliated with the North Korean government, somehow has access to billions of dollars worth of weapons (including a plane that’s able to take down several American jet fighters over Washington D.C.). Luckily, as the terrorists are waging their attack, Mike Banner happens to be taking a walk by the White House. Although every secret service agent and U.S. citizen within a 10 mile radius of the White House is blown to bits, Banner manages to sneak into the building’s front door, at which point he begins adopting the tactics of John McClane and slowly picks off the terrorists one by one.
Here are some of the things that happen once Banner is inside the White House: He gets into a fight with a terrorist guard in the Oval Office and kills him by smashing him over the head with a bust of Abraham Lincoln; he talks over the phone with the terrorist leader and, rather than saying “Goodbye”, says “Let’s play a game of f*** off—you can go first”; he ties up two terrorists and threatens to torture them if they don’t talk, but the terrorists just laugh at him, so he stabs one in the neck and says, “Whoops! I must be getting rusty at this!”, then stabs the other in the thigh and yells in his face, Jack Bauer-style.
It’s unclear how much of Olympus Has Fallen is supposed to be funny. For every one-liner or death-by-Lincoln-bust, there’s a shot of a torn American flag blowing in the wind set to mournful music. Theses misguided attempts at solemnity only make the movie that much funnier.
But what makes the movie especially amusing is that it copies off Die Hard even when copying Die Hard doesn’t seem to serve any purpose. For instance, there’s a subplot involving Banner’s wife (Radha Mitchell), who is mad at Banner for some reason. This storyline goes absolutely nowhere, but since Die Hard contained a similar subplot and since the Die Hard screenplay is apparently a sacred text, well, how could the screenwriters not include it?
The makers of Olympus Has Fallen probably didn’t intend for it to be a comedy, but nevertheless, it’s an early candidate for funniest movie of the year.