Capitol Policeman John Cale (Channing Tatum) has just been denied his dream job with the Secret Service of protecting President James Sawyer (Jamie Foxx). Not wanting to let down his little girl with the news, he takes her on a tour of the White House, when suddenly the complex is overtaken by a heavily armed paramilitary group. Now, with the nation’s government falling into chaos and time running out, it's up to Cale to save the president, his daughter, and the country. (from Amazon.com)
In the same vein as action films like Lethal Weapon or Die Hard, White House Down takes a slightly old school approach to the action genre, mixed with Emmerich's personal over-the-top touch. Emmerich spends the first half hour of the film setting up the pins as we meet John Cale and his young, politics-loving daughter who lives with his ex-wife (I love a good story setup, but the first half hour is mostly uninteresting). When we meet John, who's a former military man, he's heading to the White House to apply for a job in the president's secret service. However, he wasn't expecting to run into an old flame in Maggie Gyllenhaal who is pretty quick to crush his dreams. Meanwhile, things are falling into place for all mayhem to break loose in the country's capitol. Emmerich's love for destruction and violence is realized once the patriotism hits the fan, and even though things get more outrageous and silly as the movie progresses, White House Down is a heroic action flick that fans of the genre are likely to enjoy.
While I haven't been a fan of Channing Tatum (I still think he's one of the worst possible picks for the character of Duke in the G.I. Joe movies), this film seems more suited for him. Tatum is by no means a strong actor, but he gets the job done here. However, while Emmerich has Tatum filling in as a glorified John McClane (he's even named "John" for crying out loud!), the director has no problem making him seemingly bulletproof as his heroics get more elaborate with each explosion and hail of bullets. Jamie Foxx steps into the role of president which seems believable enough... that is, until he teams up with Tatum in more of a "buddy" role. The two play well together, but it becomes more difficult to accept Foxx as the president of the United States once the action erupts. The terrorists in the film do a pretty good job as menacing villains, but a mole in the White House who reveals himself to be heavily involved is a bit too cliche in almost every scene. It actually helps dumb down the film further. Joey King, from The Dark Knight Rises, is decent as John's daughter in distress, serving as a tough little gal who gets separated from her dad just before the terrorism begins. It then becomes a major part of the plot of John trying to find her and get her out of the White House while also protecting our nation's leader.
Emmerich's 2012 was special effects-heavy and seemed to be mixed in its execution, and White House Down isn't really much different, even though it's not a disaster movie. As such, we see iffy green screen work around the White House and unconvincing shots of a car being propelled into a pool or helicopters doing low flybys. It's not enough to completely ruin the experience, but it's so-so special effects-heavy ventures like this that make them seem less like they could actually ever happen and more fantastical to experience. But if you couple that aspect with odd humor, like John comedically scolding the president of the United States for dropping a rocket launcher out of a car window, you really end up with a film that isn't meant to be taken too seriously to begin with.
The content for White House Down almost tips in favor of an R-rating. This is mostly due to the profanity in the film; with one "F" word (said as "F--- you." by Jamie Foxx) and possibly some more that slip by among the roar of explosions and gunfire, roughly 30 uses of the "S" word, a dozen uses of "g*dd*mn" and quite a bit of other blasphemy, the profanity feels constant--especially for a PG-13 film. The language really doesn't start until the action does half-an-hour in, but it hardly lets up once it does. But to make matters more intense, the action is pervasive. When the terrorists seize the White House, there's a lengthy scene where they go from room to room dropping security guards and personnel with silencers or sprays of machine gun fire. There's some blood here and there, although it's not usually very graphic. However, near the finale, a character is mowed down with a chain gun. Realistically, it'd be a very graphic sight, but Emmerich downplays the imagery by hiding any potential gore behind the gunfire blasts and smoke. The film still isn't as bad as a given rated R action movie would be, but it definitely pushes the envelope some.
Overall, if you've seen any Roland Emmerich film, you can pretty much know what to expect from White House Down. It's got the same corny tone as most of his films do and plenty of over-the-top action that requires you to suspend your disbelief. Still, like most of Emmerich's films, they're still relatively entertaining if you don't take it too seriously. The content certainly contributes to the fact that I can't just personally recommend the film, but those who are fans of the director, the genre, or any of the cast will probably enjoy White House Down.- John DiBiase (reviewed: 11/4/13)
A Dynamic Duo (4:10) - The first featurette is a short one, but it showcases some great outtakes and banter between Foxx and Tatum, as well as great behind the scenes footage, like for the elevator scene. (1 "S" word)
Men of Action (3:44) - The second featurette offers lots of behind the scenes footage spliced together in quick cuts and focuses on how Tatum performed all of his own stunts. It's not even four minutes long, so it crams as much as it can into its short running time about stunts and action in the film.
Roland Emmerich - Upping the Ante (5:10) - Here, Roland talks about it being his first action movie in a while. This featurette focuses on his style and methods and his on-set energy as a director.
Meet The Insiders (5:14) - The last one is all about the bad guys in the film, as well as the other secondaries (like Joey King and Maggie Gyllenhaal). All five featurettes are worth watching, but it's kind of unfortunate how short they all are.- John DiBiase, (reviewed: 11/5/13)
Disclaimer: All reviews are based solely on the opinions of the reviewer. Most reviews are rated on how the reviewer enjoyed the film overall, not exclusively on content. However, if the content really affects the reviewer's opinion and experience of the film, it will definitely affect the reviewer's overall rating.
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