Movie Review: Olympus Has Fallen- Another Brainless Action Movie That is Offensively Stupid, Overly Violent, and Forcibly Patriotic

Gerard-Butler-in-Olympus-Has-Fallen-2013-Movie-Image-3To the casual untrained eye it would seem that director Antoine Fuqua’s film Olympus Has Fallen is just a generic thriller that adopts the basics of the Die Hard formula, or rather an Air Force One filled with laughable special effects and unashamed borrowing of superior cinematic products. However, the entire film is an incredibly poetic allegory of Fuqua’s career itself alluding to the promise of creative potential that succumbed to overtly insipid storytelling dependent on mindless distractions. Coming onto the scene with great promise through his gritty police drama Training Day it seems Fuqua’s career has been falling at a steady pace ever since with each film under his tutelage getting far more ridiculous and far more unrealistic. The devolution of realism can be seen through Fuqua’s filmography as he moved from shallow war drama (Tears of the Sun) to illogical conspiracy political thriller (Shooter) to the White House hostage takeover in Olympus Has Fallen. Olympus Has Fallen is beyond absurd and despite some tenuously directed sequences coupled with a surprisingly admirable yet failed attempt at being charismatic from Gerard Butler the film plummets in a downward spiral filled with preposterous setups, brainless dialogue, and over the top violence all on par with a Steven Seagal straight to DVD release. There is plenty of manipulative flag-waving here and it becomes so forceful that you begin to think you’re watching the American equivalent of Leni Reifenstahl’s Triumph of the Will but in action movie form. Despite having some promise to his career it seems that Fuqua has become Olympus and he has fallen incredibly hard with little to no hope of standing up again. Action junkies will be more than pleased with the adrenaline infused Olympus Has Fallen but that isn’t enough to separate it from the other forgettable action frenzied flicks that regularly make their way to the theaters. If you’re itching for an improbable, monotonous, and violent piece of manipulative propaganda filled to the brim with action distractions then Olympus Has Fallen is your kind of film but all others should just avoid it all together. It’s too bad there isn’t a tactical team that could save Fuqua from plummeting further away from his potential talent and keep him from wasting opportunities.

The only positive comment that could be made relating to the script for Olympus Has Fallen is that it’s more thought out than the remake of Red Dawn, but that’s an extremely low bar of comparison. Since both Red Dawn and Olympus Has Fallen deal with the ludicrous fascination with North Korea it’s fair to compare them in numerous ways. While Olympus Has Fallen might be far more entertaining and surprisingly more logical than the remake of Red Dawn it doesn’t mean it’s a film that contains even minimal logic or believable scenarios. The script written by Creighton Rothenburger and Katrin Benedikt (two people who refuse to spell their names in a traditional fashionable sense) is their very first and judging by the quality it was probably the first draft of their intended script. As political thrillers go it’s as shallow as Gerard Butler’s expressions and as action films go it’s about as frenetic as Morgan Freeman’s narration. The basic plot follows the disgraced former Presidential Guard Mike Banning who single handily fights against a rogue group of North Koreans who have taken over the White House and are keeping the President (Aaron Eckhart) and some of his cabinet hostage. There is very little organic suspense involved in this political travesty because the written progression of the story is purely intended to shock you with continuous head shot executions, occasional offensive torture, and questionably weak special effects. Olympus Has Fallen comes off so idiotic that it makes Roland Emmerich films feel intelligently constructed (ironically enough Emmerich has a White House action extravaganza coming out this year as well). One word that summarizes the Rothenburger and Benedikt script is superficial because everything from the two dimensional characters, the superfluity of violence, and the tactless patriotism screams shallow. This farcically obtuse action film might have the occasional tension building sequence, alluding to lost potential of cleverness or just mild entertainment, but clearly a film can only do so much with a horrible foundation of a script.


If there is strength in director Antoine Fuqua’s arsenal of cinematic tricks it’s the capability of bringing together engaging and tenuous action segments. Even in his weaker films, such as Tears of the Sun and Brooklyn’s Finest, there are always some impressive displays of gunfire or spontaneous eruptions of violence. Fuqua does bring his tactical direction in some of the more frantic scenes in Olympus Has Fallen (of which there are many) that stacks up bodies like bricks but the overall tone of confusion, idiocy, and incompetence dilutes the intended effect of tension and instead delivers predictable thrills. It’s incredibly difficult to annunciate quality segments when your script foundation is cliché ridden nonsense. Fuqua took the typical Hollywood approach when dealing with bland material and upped the loudness factor to 11 on a one to ten scale, or the anti-quality Spinal Tap measurement. Bored of the lame dialogue and cardboard cutout cartoonish characters? Here’s a plethora of RPGs destroying everything in sight. Are you uninspired by the laughable special effects and constant explosions? Here’s a tattered American flag to manipulate your shallow sense of inspiration. Olympus Has Fallen basically is the movie equivalent of the band KISS, all spectacle and very little innovation. Antoine Fuqua doesn’t bring anything new to the table here with this defunct Air Force One clone except for a body count that grows exponentially. While the film’s predictability falls over its own repetitive violent feats there could have been one man to come to the aid of all the failures in the film, but unfortunately that leading man doesn’t have the needed charismatic chops.

Giving Gerard Butler some credit where it’s due his performance in Olympus Has Fallen is far from his worst and there are plenty at the bottom of his barrel already to compete against each other for that coveted spot. He aggressively moves through the film with a pouty rage that is believable despite the fact that it isn’t entirely inviting. Unfortunately a film like Olympus Has Fallen is in desperate need of a 80s style charisma that not only commands the screen but also charms the audience with wit, self-deprecation, or perhaps biting sarcasm. Butler is the opposite of Arnold Schwarzenegger and Bruce Willis because he seems drastically uncomfortable and lacks an acting range that can’t showcase any other emotions beyond glumness. This is a film that could have been made infinitely cheesier and yet infinitely better had it not taken itself too seriously by inserting a self-referential one liner after every drastic kill. However, Hollywood isn’t exactly known for their sense of humor about themselves so we’ll never really get a film that mocks its own ridiculousness. Beyond Butler there is a cast filled with notably fine actors, including the underutilized Morgan Freeman and Aaron Eckhart, but none of the characters have any depth evoking either cartoonish exaggeration or obligatory incompetence to keep the plot moving. Truth be told the cast could have been a hell of a lot worse and that could equally be said about the performances so it’s not a complete disaster but rather just a complete waste. Fans of Gerard Butler (if there are any that exist) will be mildly surprised with his agility, physical execution, and serious tone but it’s the performance he can give and not the one an 80s throwback political action film deserves.


Olympus Has Fallen isn’t a nightmare action scenario but it certainly comes close to being one. Gerard Butler’s admirable effort drags the more illogical and ludicrous elements across the finish line where director Antoine Fuqua’s technical abilities couldn’t do the trick. The real dead weight holding everything back is the farce worthy first time script by writers Creighton Rothenburger and Katrin Benedikt who shouldn’t have taken their material so seriously. If Olympus Has Fallen was rearranged to be raucous stylish throwback to 80s action films much like The Expendables attempted to do twice then it probably had a chance to be entertaining in an intended ridiculous tongue in cheek way. However, what we are left with is an unintelligent film that boasts its seriousness with equally serious performances and tactics just becoming another forgettable action extravaganza. Director Antoine Fuqua began his career with great potential in regards to his direction of the camera and with actors but the faster they climb the levels of Hollywood the harder they can fall and that usually happens more often than not. The trouble with reverting into mindless entertainment is that most people, especially the ones who enjoy brainless action drivel, never truly remember it and Olympus Has Fallen is another in a long strand of mindless action films that nourishes the adrenaline junkies for the time being.

Grade: C-

One Response to “Movie Review: Olympus Has Fallen- Another Brainless Action Movie That is Offensively Stupid, Overly Violent, and Forcibly Patriotic”
  1. Charlotte says:

    What a fantastically written review. I couldn’t have said it better. Compliments to the writer.

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