Monday, December 30, 2013

Penny Thoughts ‘13—White House Down (2013) **

PG-13, 131 min.
Director: Roland Emmerich
Writer: James Vanderbilt
Starring: Channing Tatum, Jamie Fox, Maggie Gyllenhaal, Jason Clarke, Richard Jenkins, Joey King, James Woods, Nicolas Wright, Jimmi Simpson, Michael Murphy, Rachel Lefevre, Lance Reddick, Matt Craven, Jake Webber, Kevin Rankin

The Greeks said there are only a limited number of stories to tell, everything else are just variations on a theme. Hollywood is notorious for recycling formulas over and over again. After “Die Hard” became a big hit, you’d hear comparisons like, “this movie is ‘Die Hard’ on a plane and that one is ‘Die Hard’ on a bus.” “White House Down”, like this year’s earlier movie “Olympus Has Fallen” is “Die Hard” in The White House. The main difference between the former film and this one is that this one quite literally lifts major elements of the “Die Hard” story and transplants them into its Washington D.C. setting. It isn’t merely its premise that is similar to “Die Hard”. Some very specific details are almost exactly the same.

First there’s the shirt. Channing Tatum eventually finds himself stripped down to just his under tank, just like John McClane. The hero talks to himself in a funny manner. There’s an elevator sequence when the heroes are almost crushed at the top of the elevator shaft. The bad guys have one psycho, an older one orchestrating everything, a loyal dependable one who gets personal with the hero once someone close to him is killed, and the nerdy tech guy doing something completely mysterious which is what everything is hinged upon. Somebody who doesn't have all the information is making the exact decisions the bad guys want them to. There are helicopters flying below the hard deck through the streets of Washington, just like L.A., and most of the actors were in high school or even younger, dickhead. The rooftop is an ambush. The movie also fills much of its action with the levity of witty banter between the heroes—one white and one black. And, of course, the bad guys aren’t there for what you think they’re after.

While “White House Down” isn’t a good copy of “Die Hard”, it’s a heck of a lot better than the most recent “Die Hard” film; so if you must watch one, I’d put your money on this copy.

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