Not only does this ring false in the context of the true terrorist threats that our nation faces, but the liberal Hollywood slant reflected here is laughable to the point of insult. Even the surprise of who the "inside man" is that enables the domestic terrorist unit to smuggle a militia-level armament into the White House (a ridiculous proposition in itself) proves easily predictable based on casting alone. We're either way ahead of this movie's rather foreseeable beats, or left thinking "You’re kidding me, right?" with the rest.

The action onslaught, with all its gusto, has few legitimate thrills. The only inspired set piece is a bullet-riddled car chase sequence across and around the White House grounds – not on the nearby streets, mind you, but on the lawn perimeter itself. It's sort of a gonzo idea and they pull it off, but it’s the film's lone highlight.

As for the violence, it’s a perfect PG-13 mix of destructive overkill with mostly bloodless results. Yes, victims fall at the hands of gunmen with regularity, and several at point blank range, but rarely are killings displayed to any particular graphic degree beyond the quick convulsion and collapse of yet another nameless body to be added to the count. Suffice it to say that people are blown up and/or gunned down often, and at length, but on a desensitized videogame level.

In case this all sounds too grim, director Emmerich (2012, The Day After Tomorrow) goes out of his way to create a light atmosphere with ongoing banter and one-liner quips. It’s an old-school 80s action sensibility – and not an entirely unwelcome one – but in the context of our nation’s capital in a post-9/11 world it often comes off as too light, even tone deaf, and at times borderline insensitive. At the very least, all attempts at suspense or dramatic weight fall flat.

The cast acquits itself well enough despite playing generic roles, while the two poster boys Tatum and Foxx provide some of their best and worst work, respectively. Tatum is built for blockbusters like these, not just physically but also with his easy-going charm and dry charisma. He makes for a very appealing action star, to both sexes. Foxx, on the other hand, is miscast and his take on a President isn’t remotely presidential. He's more attitude than temperament. While that's clearly by design it’s the one aspect of the film that demands credibility and Foxx just doesn’t provide it.

For all my particular gripes, I have to confess that the crowd at my public screening seemed to lap this mess up, laughing and cheering along the way. If that's at all indicative, White House Down may prove to be a classic example where film critics and the masses part ways. While no one will mistake this for being art, it’s a bit disheartening to know that enough may mistake it for being good.

CAUTIONS:

  • Drugs/Alcohol Content: None
  • Language/Profanity: A good deal of profanity throughout. The s-word is used often. About eight variations of the Lord's name in vain. Four uses of a-hole. Three SOBs. One f-word.
  • Sexual Content/Nudity: An infrared thermal scan silhouette image of a couple in bed together as they begin to have sex (seen briefly, from a distance). A verbal reference to "2nd base" is made. A man and woman kiss.
  • Violence/Other: Heavy amounts of gunfire and gun-related killings throughout. A few killings have a low-to-moderate level of blood involved, but most don’t. Some shootings are point blank killings of individuals. Missile launches, explosions. Bombs detonated, one in a crowd of innocent people. Some violent fight scenes. A girl is slapped once violently. The same girl is also placed in serious peril at times, including having a gun pointed to her head as she cries. A bloody wound in a man’s side.

Publication date: June 28, 2013