If you go
“White House Down,” rated PG-13
Rating: 2 out of 4 stars
Running time: 131 minutes
Starring: Channing Tatum, Jamie Foxx, Maggie Gyllenhaal and Jason Clarke
Now playing at Wildhorse Stadium Cinemas. For a complete list of this week’s movie times, click here.
It’s been roughly 200 years since the last time the most safeguarded building in the free world went up in cinders. Considering all the precautions taken in real life, it makes it that much more unlikely that the events of “White House Down” could happen, let alone twice in one year, but never assume that Hollywood won’t try to double-dip whenever it gets the chance.
As part of the U.S. Capitol Police, John Cale’s (Channing Tatum) career may be on the upswing with a possible job with the Secret Service in his future, a position that might redeem him in the eyes of his politically fervent daughter, Emily (Joey King), after many lapses in parenting. Scoring tickets for a tour of the White House certainly helps the relationship between the two of them, even if his interview with a former classmate (Maggie Gyllenhaal) reveals his likelihood of being hired as practically nonexistent.
However, Cale’s slim chances of being part of such an elite agency are the least of his worries today, when Washington is rocked by a team of terrorists who quickly take over the White House, killing most of the people in it and taking the rest hostage. Separated from Emily, Cale takes it upon himself to fight back against the invaders to find her, only to wind up rescuing the abducted President James Sawyer (Jamie Foxx), whom these mercenaries need alive to fulfill a larger plan.
It’s up to Cale to protect the commander in chief and ultimately keep the emergency situation from having wide-ranging effects on the rest of the nation, and possibly the world.
Having appeared in no less than a dozen movies since 2011, it becomes clear that Tatum isn’t going away anytime soon, a fact that will make some cheer and others groan. He’s got enough experience under his belt to succeed as an action hero whose valor has earned him a job recommendation from the speaker of the House (Richard Jenkins), but it’s a little bit much to believe him as a supposed everyman like Cale, principally his fatherhood.
He’s young enough and King is old enough that he could maybe pass as her dad, yet it would have been easy enough to write her as his baby sister. Even if the subject of her paternity is a stretch, the young actress has quite the gravitas as the resourceful Emily, a history aficionado who manages to wage her own battle against her attackers by getting footage of their activities uploaded to the Internet.
Donning Air Jordans, chewing Nicorette and drawing some other hard-to-miss influences from the current head of state, Foxx is an OK president, with Abraham Lincoln’s pocket watch and an enjoyment for skimming the Reflecting Pool in Marine One, whose plans for peace in the Middle East are undercut somewhat by his being forced to whip out a rocket launcher when times call for it, as he and Cale traverse every inch of the White House evading the group of baddies.
James Woods wastes no time showing his dark side as the treasonous head of the presidential detail who’s not just assisting the terrorists, he’s the one calling the shots for the lead soldier of fortune (Jason Clarke), the typically arrogant tech nerd (Jimmi Simpson) and the trigger-happy guard dog (Kevin Rankin) who keeps all the hostages at bay. Of course, the greatest threat to national security remains hidden in shadow, as it always does in these movies.
Admittedly, James Vanderbilt’s screenplay has some surprises concealed within the formulaic approach to this flick, but the biggest shocker is how glaringly the premise and other elements are lifted from so many other movies. If you thought this year’s very similar “Olympus Has Fallen” was a “Die Hard” clone, seeing Tatum in his wife-beater will only make you long for Bruce Willis all the more.
John Cale, John McClane? Wow, somebody strained themselves in the nomenclature department…
On another topic entirely, why is it that every other film or show with a black president involves all hell breaking loose? “Deep Impact,” “24,” “2012” — it’s starting to look a little racist.
As in the latter of those features, Roland Emmerich’s style of direction would have you think there’s no such thing as too much, and if “Independence Day” didn’t already give you an idea, the man does know how to tear apart the White House convincingly, but that kind of enormity is as much a hindrance as a help. What could be an agreeable if unmotivated actioner gets downright insufferable well before its end thanks to Emmerich’s apparent love for pointlessly lengthy hand-to-hand combat sequences and a lack of understanding that movies of his genre should rarely exceed two hours.
No one could have expected true creativity from something like “White House Down,” yet your standards still have to be pretty low to be impressed by it. A few saving graces keep it from being a complete bomb, but just to be safe, let’s make sure Emmerich never gets ahold of the codes to the nuclear football.