Hollywood’s funny way of celebrating Barack Obama’s re-election is to put the White House through as much hell as possible just to prove its resilience. In September, Channing Tatum will hold the fort against an invasion in Roland Emmerich’s ‘White House Down’. However, if you can’t wait for two hours of American national monuments going up in flames, Antoine Fuqua’s seemingly identical ‘Olympus Has Fallen’ (the title is military code for, well, ‘White House Down’) delivers unrelenting action with lunkheaded glee.
The film nods to ‘Independence Day’ – the standard by which all such films must be measured – by taking place on July 5, but the chief model is ‘Die Hard’. With Washington under siege and hunky president Aaron Eckhart taken hostage, it’s left to disgraced aide Mike Banning (Gerard Butler) to enter the White House and see off the invaders with bullets, torture and one-liners. ‘Let’s play a game of “fuck off”,’ he snarls at chief villain Rick Yune. ‘You go first.’
Occasional segues to the hostage chamber (where Eckhart and feisty Defence Secretary Melissa Leo are kicked around with gay abandon) and the negotiation room (where Morgan Freeman and Angela Bassett furrow their brows and wait for their cheques to clear) are seemingly designed to allow Butler a fag break between bouts of badassery. The thrills and the effects are cheap, but this is in hard-driving, good-humoured command of its own silliness. White House up, at least until September.