Film review: Olympus Has Fallen

IF YOU don’t enjoy retro thrills, you will have no use for Olympus Has Fallen, a movie which leans so heavily on the guilty 1980s pleasures of Die Hard and ­Under Siege that you almost want to buy it a dirty singlet.

Olympus Has Fallen (15)

Director: Antoine Fuqua

Running time: 120 minutes

* * * *

In the first 10 minutes we establish that Mike Banning (Gerard Butler) is the bodyguard and buddy of the US president (Aaron Eckhart), happy to spar with the Pres in the gym, or banter with Mrs Pres (Ashley Judd) and their son Connor (Finley Jacobsen), until an improbable car accident leaves the President alive, but single again and with Banning shouldering the blame and shunted off to the Treasury.

There, he broods until – hurrah – the North Koreans launch an attack on the White House, strafing Pennsylvania Avenue, and clipping the Washington Monument. By the time Banning has started sprinting towards the Oval office from Starbucks, his old boss, the secretary of defense (Melissa Leo, right), and South Korea’s prime minister have been hustled down to an underground bunker and held hostage by the plot’s criminal mastermind Kang (Korean-American actor and former model Rick Yune). Banning is the only agent who manages to get inside the building without getting mown down by Asians.

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What follows includes some rather full-on slaughter, and a brutal amount of overwrought flag waving. There’s also some outrageous stereotyping.

Many people will find director Antoine Fuqua’s film to be silly and derivative. It is – and Channing Tatum will be along this summer with the identically plotted White House Down, proving that threatened heads of state are fast becoming this year’s zombies. But I’d rather have Butler getting shot at than treating women like silly hens in Playing For Keeps. Lines like “Sorry about the damage to your House” demonstrate that Butler still needs someone to teach him how to sling a joke, and a decent American accent, but he’s fine when shooting, stabbing or neck-snapping.

He’s also keeping company with a lot of decent character actors who refuse to snooze on your dollar. Eckhart is given surprisingly little to do, except look frustrated while his staff are tortured for their nuclear access codes, but Leo almost pulls off a spectacularly schlocky sequence where she faces down Yune by reciting the Pledge of Allegiance.

Leo pops up elsewhere on this page with her supporting role in Oblivion, and maybe she and Morgan Freeman are doing some sort of Buy One Get One Free deal at the moment, because Freeman is also in Olympus Has Fallen as the speaker of the House. Of course he is – because when your original president is unavailable, who else would you get to step in? At least in a genuine 1980s film, Freeman would still have had some novelty as president.

• On general release from Wednesday

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