The trailer for Olympus Has Fallen is actually kind of creepy: the White House under attack, Pennsylvania Avenue exploding with firebombs, the Washington Monument clipped by enemy aircraft. We don't really need to see the first family's home and the nation's Capitol under siege, do we?
Have no fear. Any semblance of seriousness and verisimilitude suggested by the marketing campaign is quickly forgotten once director Antoine Fuqua's enjoyably tacky Die Hard-on-the-Potomac gets under way.
Gerard Butler, brooding and burly, is Olympus Has Fallen's John McClane - a tarnished Secret Service agent with a desk job at the Treasury. A desk that just happens to look onto the front gate of the White House. When truckloads of demon commandos start spilling across the lawn, mowing down guards and making for the portico, Butler's Mike Banning is already hoofing it over there, dodging bullets and warning bystanders to take cover. He uses the F-word a lot, too, which must be part of his Secret Service training.
Aaron Eckhart, an actor with the gravitas of a duck, is President Benjamin Asher, who has just welcomed the president of South Korea and his entourage when the assault begins. Quick, to the bunker!
Unfortunately, among the VIPs shunted into the underground command center - along with the vice president (Phil Austin) and the secretary of defense (Melissa Leo) - is Kang (Rick Yune), who is not, in fact, an attache with the South Korean delegation but a crazed terrorist mastermind. It's only a matter of hours before he has the secret codes to the U.S. nuclear arsenal at his fingertips.
But wait - Mike Banning is in the Oval Office, poking through the president's desk. And he's got the boss of the Secret Service (Angela Bassett) on his headset, and she's in a situation room with the speaker of the House (Morgan Freeman, acting presidential) and the chairman of the Joint Chiefs (Robert Forster, cussing up a storm). Let Banning see what's up, and whether he can rescue the First Whippersnapper. Yes, the president's son (Finley Jacobsen) is somewhere in the White House, hiding out.
Olympus Has Fallen offers a shooter game's worth of bad guys to dispose of - one of which Banning klunks on the noggin with a bust of Lincoln. Wave upon wave of the terrorists (part of a North Korean splinter group) get their necks cracked, or get shot, or get the chance to engage in choreographed hand-to-hand combat with Banning. And meanwhile, Kang is busy torturing Asher's cabinet - the veep, the defense chief.
And Radha Mitchell, as Banning's wife, a hospital nurse busy with the emergency room deluge across town, wonders whether her husband is all right.
He's sworn to protect the commander in chief, no matter how many crazy North Korean guerrillas get thrown at him.
Which way to the map room?