OLYMPUS HAS FALLEN
Back in the golden days of action films, someone like Chuck Norris or Steven Seagal would have the lead in “Olympus Has Fallen”. It’s the type of film they reveled in; plenty of action and very pro-American core values. Norris just turned 73 last week; and Seagal is having too much fun on his hit TV series “True Justice”. So, instead, we have Gerard Butler. Though not particularly known for his action films (one of his best roles was playing Dracula for Wes Craven), Butler, or rather his stunt double Airon Armstrong, manage to recreate realistic, and rather nifty fight sequences.
Armstrong is the son of famous Hollywood stuntman Vic Armstrong. He trained in several various martial arts, the most prominent one a rather obscure Chinese style of Gung Fu, where he competed, and won several championships. He specialized in small weapons, especially knives, and his skills come to the forefront in “Olympus Has Fallen”.
Of course, he does have help. Assisting in the fight choreography is Simon Rhee, one of the premiere Korean style martial artists in the world, Phillip Tan and fight choreographer J.J. Perry. While most of the action centers on gunplay, the hand-to-hand fight sequences are well peppered throughout the film and contain a number of really neat moves.
All this action is ring mastered by Director Antoine Fuqua. Originally an electrical engineer, the Pittsburgh native has a knack for telling gritty tales with offbeat twists. I had much trepidation before the screening for “Olympus Has Fallen”. It had four separate screening dates in the ‘burgh alone. I feared a heavily promoted film would surely be inundated with liberal ideology; echoing the mantras of this country’s subversives who believe America is the root of all evil. Thankfully, screenwriters Creighton Rothenberger and Katrin Benedikt are folks who realize the majority of American viewers are conservative in mien and tired of the rantings of the “hate American first” clans. They’ve pieced together a film that stands up for the greatest country in the world, and its core beliefs.
Mike Banning (Butler) is principle agent for the President’s secret service detail. The film opens with a tragic event involving the First Family, which, despite Banning’s most valiant efforts, he is powerless to prevent. Years later, assigned to a desk job at the Treasury Department, Banning becomes the only agent in place to help the nation’s security forces when a bold attack on the White House results in terrorists commanding 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue.
Naturally, to continue the denial of Muslims as antagonists, the terrorists spawn from North Korea; not farfetched, by any means. What is out of the ordinary is Rick Yune playing the chief antagonist, Kang. Yune is a megastar in Oriental Cinema, and generally takes the hero roles. He is particularly sinister, however in this part.
Rounding out the cast are Aaron Eckart as President Benjamin Asher, Finley Jacobsen as his son Conor, Dylan McDermott as Agent Forbes, Morgan Freeman as Speaker of the House Trumbull and Angela Bassett as Secret Service Director Lynn Jacobs. Appearing in cameos are Radha Mitchell, Ashley Judd, Robert Forester and Melissa Leo.
KEY SCENES TO LOOK FOR:
- THE FINAL FIGHT BETWEEN BANNING AND KANG
- THE FIGHT BEHIND THE WALLS
- THE HYDRA SIX
A large part of the success for “Olympus Has Fallen”, besides its action and pro-American themes, is its look. The Cinematographer is Conrad W. Hall, son of Oscar winning cinematographer Conrad Hall. Hall was so amazing, I would see movies solely if his name was attached to the project. His last film was “Road to Perdition” with Tom Hanks and Paul Newman. He received the Oscar for his work on that film posthumously. His son is continuing his work in fine fashion. The movie looks great, and it’s all backed up with an excellent score by Trevor Morris.
All told, “Olympus Has Fallen” is two solid hours of excitement, definitely worth the price of admission. It also serves as a dire warning to replace the limp-wristed girly-man currently in office with someone who has a strong, sturdy backbone, so this type of assault, regardless of how far-fetched, isn’t even considered by our enemies. Don’t miss this one.
THE GRADE FOR OLYMPUS HAS FALLEN = A
Fiore Mastracci is a veteran filmcritic and used to train the Secret Service in hand-to-hand combat when Chester Arthur was in office.