Olympus Has Fallen

Hard copy

OLYMPUS HAS FALLEN ( Antoine Fuqua). 119 minutes. Opens Friday (March 22). For venues and times, see listings. Rating: NNN

“They’ve got the universal terrorist playbook and they’re running it step by step,” beloved LAPD cop Al Powell mutters in Die Hard, describing characters who won’t deviate from a plan of action even when they desperately should.

Well, the screenwriters of Olympus Has Fallen have the Die Hard playbook, and they faithfully – almost obsessively – transplant the action beats of John McTiernan’s 1988 action classic into a 21st-century thriller. The biggest difference is that the terrorists actually are terrorists.

Olympus Has Fallen is Die Hard In The White House, with a North Korean paramilitary assault on the iconic DC residence just as the president (Aaron Eckhart) welcomes a South Korean delegation. But there’s one thing they didn’t count on: an ex-Secret Service agent (Gerard Butler), working his way into the building to find the president’s young son (Finley Jacobson).

It delivers in the most basic sense, but you wonder what a director with a sense of play might have done with the material. Antoine Fuqua (Training Day, Shooter) is a blunt nihilist who thinks watching bit players bleed out counts as character development.

A more limber filmmaker might also have encouraged Butler’s natural charisma, rather than letting him growl his way through the picture.

But maybe Bruce Willis would have sued.

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