DVD Release Date: August 13, 2013
Theatrical Release Date: March 22, 2013
Rating: R (for strong violence and strong language throughout)
Genre: Action Drama
Run Time: 120 min
Director: Antoine Fuqua
Cast: Gerard Butler, Aaron Eckhart, Morgan Freeman, Angela Bassett, Dylan McDermott, Rick Yune, Melissa Leo, Ashley Judd

As culture and media steadily coarsen, the ante continues to be raised on what level of content is deemed permissible in mainstream entertainment. The surest way to provoke a reaction is to be more graphic than what’s come before. Regarding violence, Olympus Has Fallen takes that next step for base Hollywood action movies – and does so in two ways. 

One, pure volume. We’ve seen bloody killings before, no doubt, but once the carnage starts here it rarely lets up.  What used to pass for graphic money shots are now standard throughout, with so many staged for the clear intent of basking in the brutality. Two, the context.  It’s one thing when sicko villains perpetrate violence to elicit an audience’s repulsion. It’s another when the hero does just as much in order to get the crowd cheering, and even evoke a perverse jingoism. 

In short, Olympus Has Fallen isn’t the mindless action fun you may have been hoping for. Sure, it’s stupid (and more on that shortly), but what makes this truly vile is the level of blood lust that fuels the good guy. For example, he both promises and delivers on the threat to stab a terrorist in the head until he’s dead (not to mention the countless gun-to-head point blank killings, fully visualized). And then the movie has the audacity to wrap all that brutality up in the American flag. This is video game violence porn cloaked in cornball patriotism – and you’re expected to applaud it.

The premise is simple: Die Hard in the White House. Apparently, though, that’s easier conceived than done. In a post-9/11 world – one in which an elderly person can be accosted for just trying to get through airport security – it would take a lot of intelligence, skill, and resources to make a siege of 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue credible. 

Suffice it to say, Olympus Has Fallen (the code phrase for capture and control of the White House) doesn’t even make a cursory effort at plausibility. In fact, the ease with which a group of North Korean terrorists take the premises and hold President Asher (Aaron Eckhart, Battle Los Angeles) and his Cabinet members hostage defies all logic. 

It’s predicated on nothing short of the worst breach of security, intelligence, and armed forces protocol one could possibly imagine. Maybe this shouldn’t come as a surprise; even the film’s prologue depicts another completely avoidable tragedy as the result of bizarre Secret Service decision making (note to agents: don’t ever take a Presidential motorcade through a blizzard). One could say that at least the movie follows its own internal illogic, but that would only emphasize its problems rather than excuse them.

The primary reason for this lethally botched opener, of course, is to set the stage for Agent Mike Banning’s redemption. Fired from the Presidential detail after that ill-fated winter disaster, Banning (Gerard Butler, Playing For Keeps) ends up being the only skilled man on the outside who can infiltrate the White House grounds and save the day. Pretty standard fare, as formula plots go, even though it requires yet another sinkhole of logic as to why there is literally no other option than That Guy (who, incidentally, must first save the President’s son because the kid didn’t have any agents protecting him).