Rick Yune

Olympus Has Fallen

olympus_has_fallen2013

Millennium Films

Directed by Antoine Fuqua

Produced by Gerard Butler, Alan Siegel and Mark Gill

Written by Creighton Rothenberger

Mike Banning (Gerard Butler) is the agent of charge of the Secret Service’s Presidential Detail. And as such he enjoys an usually intimate relationship with The First Family. He calls President Asher (Aaron Eckhart) by his first name while they work out together at Camp David. He advises First Lady Margaret (Ashley Judd) on what earrings to wear at state functions. Their son Connor treats Mike as if he were his favorite uncle. That all comes to an end when there’s a horrifying car accident and Mike has to make a choice between saving The President or Margaret. Mike chooses President Asher.

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Mike is transferred to working in the Treasury Department as Asher doesn’t want Mike around to remind him of that night. Mike’s boss, Secret Service chief Lynne Jacobs (Angela Bassett) tells Mike repeatedly that nobody blames him for what happened as he did his job of protecting The President. But it doesn’t make it easier for Mike who hates his desk duty, seeing it as a demotion.

Mike’s chance for redemption comes when The White House is attacked and captured by the brilliant terrorist mastermind Kang Yeonsak (Rick Yune) who takes President Asher and most of his top aides hostage. His goal is to use them as leverage to force U.S. military forces to withdraw from Korea’s DMZ. Kang also is after the access codes for Cerberus, a computer system that will allow him to detonate all of America’s nuclear missiles in their silos, turning America into a nuclear wasteland.

During the ferocious assault, Mike joins the Secret Service agents defending The White House and manages to get inside. By the time military backup arrives, the terrorists have slaughtered all the Secret Service agents and secured The White House. It’s up to Mike Banning to go full-blown John McClane to save the day single-handedly. Can he rescue Conner Asher before Kang’s men find him? Can he save President Asher? Can he deactivate Cerberus before the countdown hits zero and the United States goes ka-boom?

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If you have to ask, then you must not be familiar with action movies of the 1980’s which is what OLYMPUS HAS FALLEN is an unashamed throwback to. In fact, OLYMPUS HAS FALLEN is so committed to its 80’s Action Movie roots that for me it’s a better “Die Hard” sequel than “A Good Day To Die Hard.” The story is totally preposterous of course, but then again, what action movie doesn’t have a preposterous premise to begin with? And the movie has more than its share of plot holes such as; why does Kang waste time executing hostages to force Speaker of The House/Acting President Allan Trumbull (Morgan Freeman) to order U.S. troops to withdraw from Korea when he could have simply used the threat of Cerberus to do so? Why does Asher wait until his Vice President (Phil Austin) and Secretary of Defense (Melissa Leo) are beaten damn near to death before ordering them to give up their codes while he gives his up without putting up any kind of resistance?

But OLYMPUS HAS FALLEN, despite the plot holes is a pretty solid action thriller. And I liked how it didn’t go down the usual route of this genre of movie. Thankfully, Mike doesn’t turn into a burned-out, alcoholic mess who screws up his marriage after his demotion. He’s actually a pretty well-adjusted guy with a solid marriage. He just needs to spend a little more time with his wife (Radha Mitchell in a really boring and uninspired performance) and get from behind that desk.  I figured that the only purpose of the President having a son was so that at a crucial point he’d be taken hostage and we’d get yet another tired scene of the bad guy holding the gun to the brat’s head and telling our hero to drop his gun. That doesn’t happen here and I was so glad for that.

The casting of this movie is really first rate, full of A-list actors who I was quite surprised to see in what is essentially a big budget B-Action Movie. Besides Gerard Butler, Aaron Eckhart, Ashley Judd, Angela Bassett, Melissa Leo, Rick Yune and Morgan Freeman we’ve got Dylan McDermott as Dave Forbes, ex-Secret Service agent and best friend to Mike, Robert Forster as the Army Chief of Staff and Cole Hauser. That’s one impressive line-up of talent for any movie and they all do their usual professional work here. I can’t really single out any performance that I didn’t like. Except for Radha Mitchell and I’m willing to chalk that up to her character really being underwritten and never really getting a chance to do much.

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And I really enjoyed seeing Gerard Butler back doing what he should be doing: making kick-ass action movies. Hopefully this won’t be his last one and he’ll stay away from making crappy romantic comedies. And I can’t close out this review without a special nod to Melissa Leo whose character takes one of the most excruciating ass-whoopin’s I’ve ever seen in a movie.

So should you see OLYMPUS HAS FALLEN? If you’re an action movie fan, yeah. The spectacularly gory violence and sheer level of destruction in this movie is gleeful and plentiful. This movie has got one of the highest body counts I’ve seen in recent movies and the CGI guys were apparently given full leave to go nuts, which they do. There’s nothing in OLYMPUS HAS FALLEN that will really surprise you as the director, Antoine Fuqua is not out to reinvent the Action Movie genre here. He has produced a solid piece of entertainment designed to do nothing more than put asses in seats, sell popcorn and provide two hours of carnage. If that’s all you’re looking for, OLYMPUS HAS FALLEN is your huckleberry.

Olympus-Has-Fallen

Rated R

180 Minutes

The Man With The Iron Fists

2012

Universal Pictures

Directed by Rza

Produced by Eli Roth and Marc Abraham

Written by Rza and Eli Roth

It’s not necessary for you to have watched 1970’s Kung Fu movies as obsessively as I did and still do to enjoy THE MAN WITH THE IRON FISTS but it sure doesn’t hurt. This is the real thing in that while watching it I actually felt like I was in a 42end St. grindhouse back in the ‘70’s. The only thing missing was the smell of pot and the snoring of a wino in the last row. The style and characters and story are such vintage Kung Fu movie swave that it’s easy to just settle back and enjoy the sheer outrageousness on the screen.

In the small community of Jungle Village there is constant warfare between various clans battling for supremacy. The Lion Clan is the most powerful and due to special weapons created by Thaddeus the Blacksmith (Rza) they are able to defeat their hated enemies and prepare for a huge shipment of gold bullion that is to be transported through their village. It’s guarded by The Geminis (Andrew Lin and Grace Huang) and an army of warriors equipped with rapid firing crossbows. But this doesn’t deter Silver Lion (Byron Mann) the new leader of The Lion Clan. What does worry him is that Zen Yi, The X-Blade (Rick Yune) is returning to Jungle Village to investigate his father’s highly suspicious death. Silver Lion hires Brass Body (David Bautista) a seven foot tall mercenary who backs up his superhuman strength with the supernatural ability to turn his body into living brass to kill Zen Yi.

Meanwhile, a mysterious stranger right out of a Sergio Leone western comes to town. Jack Knife (Russell Crowe) apparently is there only to smoke opium and bang as many of Madam Blossom’s (Lucy Liu) whores as he can. But his hedonistic behavior hides a cunning, devious mind that has schemes on getting the gold himself.

Thaddeus is content to stay out of the conflict. He only cares about earning enough gold through his blacksmithing to buy his girlfriend Lady Silk (Jamie Chung) out of Madame Blossom’s  service and build a new life together far away from Jungle Village. But Thaddeus soon learns that everybody must pick a side in the epic battle for possession of the gold. Even him.

THE MAN WITH THE IRON FISTS starts out fast and strong and never slows down it’s plot for an instant. There’s always something interesting happening on screen, whether it’s a knock-down-drag-out beatdown or Russell Crowe getting his freak on or Silver Lion scheming with a mysterious hooded man to get the gold. All the while Rza is narrating in a voice that sounds nothing like how I imagine a black man in the 19th Century would sound. Matter of fact, Thaddeus sounds like he came to Jungle Village straight from Brooklyn’s Brownsville. But oddly enough, it just adds to the fun of the movie which also borrows heavily from spaghetti westerns. It’s also cool how each of the characters have their own special weapons with the standouts being the combined Bowie knife/pistol carried by Jack Knife or the armored suit that is made up of bladed weapons worn by Zen-Yi which gives him his nickname of The X-Blade.

You don’t go to a movie like this for the acting but it helps when it’s as good as it is here. Madame Blossom is a role Lucy Liu could play in her sleep but she throws herself into it fully. Rza was a little too laid back for me to be the main character but I think it was a wise move for him to let the more experienced actors carry the bulk of the movie. Rick Yune and the Master Killer himself, Gordon Liu also do solid acting jobs. I had a lot of fun with Byron Mann as Silver Lion because if there’s one thing I love, it’s a bad guy who enjoys being a bad guy. He struts through the movie with a psychotic grin and hair that any member of an 80’s heavy metal band would envy.

But nobody in the movie throws himself into their role with as much gusto as Russell Crowe. He looks as if he’s having the time of his life being in a Kung Fu movie and for much of the movie’s running time we’re not sure what the deal is with this guy Jack Knife. When he’s not drinking or smoking dope or banging whores he’s creeping around the village in disguise, quietly gathering information and observing what’s going on.

So should you see THE MAN WITH THE IRON FISTS? Absolutely. I loved how this movie is such an unashamed throwback to those wonderful 70’s Kung Fu movies done with style, fun and substance. Everybody looks as if they had a great time making it and from the sound of it the audience I watched the movie with had an equally good time watching it. I know I did.

96 minutes

Rated R