Olympus Has Fallen

Rating: The real pity of this film is that nearly everyone died but Gerard Butler.

Olympus Has FallenOlympus Has Fallen is a movie that is wretchedly violent yet at times far better than you would have ever imagined. Despite its excesses, a group of accomplished actors that include Aaron Eckhart, Melissa Leo, Morgan Freeman, Angela Bassett, Robert Forster and Radha Mitchell work hard to hold a rather corny drama together.

In sum, the White House has been taken over by a group of terrorists led by a sadistic North Korean named Kang. Played with bravado and unfeeling charm by Rick Yune, he dominates the movie whenever he appears.

Aaron Eckhart is the President, still on the outs with his former Secret Service Guard after his wife died in a car crash. Ashley Judd takes a few minutes to appear as the first lady, which was probably the reason she decided to not run for the Senate in Kentucky next year.

With the President and Vice President being held hostage, Morgan Freeman brings his normal skill to his role, here appearing as the Speaker of the House. Acting as President, neither he nor anyone else in government can figure out what to do to rescue the President. This isn’t helped by Kang’s readiness to execute American hostages on closed government TV whenever things are not moving to his satisfaction.

To be quite honest, this film is a dirtier version of Director Antoine Fuqua’s prior hit, Training Day (2001). Just when it appears that Olympus Has Fallen could outrun its shortcomings, Fuqua makes the tragic decision to concentrate on disgraced Secret Service Agent Gerard Butler to save the day. Literally scores of Secret Service Agents have been gunned down on screen, but Mr. Butler is untouchable as a modern day version of a human Mighty Mouse.

From that point on the film is little more than an adventurous video game filled with human carnage. Though Eckhart is fine as the President, and Ms. Leo as a member of the Cabinet, they both do little more than survive brutal punishment while Butler advances to save the day.

There are obviously other developments, both good and bad, that I will leave to your imagination. Nonetheless, it has now become disturbingly evident that Butler lacks the acting ability to carry a film on his own. Sure, he was magnificent in The 300 (2006) and RocknRolla (2008), but he contributed to the disaster of such films as Nim’s Island (2008); The Bounty Hunter (2011) and the wretched Machine Gun Preacher (2011).

However, what struck me as the most repulsive thing about this film is the sad fact that it serves as a mirror image of the pathetic gun debate going on in our country today. Recent statistics have shown that close to 50% of gun owners possess them for their personal protection. That is an unfortunate opinion based on profound nonsense, and if you dare doubt it, look to what has just happened in Texas. Yes, Texas, the State that wants a gun on everyone’s hip despite the fact that two prosecutors have just been cruelly shot and killed north of Dallas. The tragedy is to be found in the fact that both died despite carrying firearms.

Unfortunately, I’ve become convinced that movies like Olympus Has Fallen, the Fast and Furious films, the G.I. Joe films and the Die Hard movies promote the bravado image of gun violence in our country. Films in this category attract a large male audience, and killers walk with an arrogant swagger while most of the women appear either as victims or cheap, Las Vegas show girls.

These heroes are nearly all guys with more muscles than brains. Bruce Willis, Vin Diesel, Dwayne Johnson and Sylvester Stallone pose as idols in nearly every young man’s eyes, including their own.

No, I am not blaming Hollywood for the gun violence in our society. More to the point, I am holding the NRA accountable for trying to criticize Hollywood while relying on these films to sell their product. It would be like Marlboro criticizing cigarette ads.

In the end, we have to reevaluate a movie industry that is ready to star Dwayne Johnson in four separate films over a two-month period. If his movie character is a young man’s dream, we remain in big trouble in this society.