White House Down

Taking the White House by force has become all the rage. I hope this isn't giving any failed candidates any ideas. There is the occasional bit of déjà vu, but thankfully the plots are different enough not to make that too much of a problem. I still wouldn't advise watching them as a double feature, though.

Instead of a slightly disgraced Secret Service agent, we have a wannabe Secret Service agent, one John Cale (Channing Tatum, Side Effects), who's a member of the Capitol Police assigned to the security detail for the Speaker of the House. Not the most glamorous of jobs, but the Speaker of the House is actually third in line for the presidency. Somehow being third in line for the throne sounds much more exciting, though.

Certainly Cale's daughter, Emily (Joey King, Oz: The Great and Powerful) isn't impressed with his job. She's obsessed with politics, however, mainly the president, and she's probably the only kid in the world who could be so thoroughly bribed with a White House visitor's pass. The actress is thirteen, looked more like fifteen, and I blinked in surprise when they said that the character was supposed to be eleven. Really, she seemed more like twenty-something at times. The point is, when Cale goes for his interview for the Secret Service job, she's along for the ride, and afterwards persuades him to stick around for the tour.

Cale has blown his interview -- turns out he knows the woman doing the hiring (Maggie Gyllenhaal, The Dark Knight) from college, and she wasn't impressed with him, either. But he lets Emily think he's got a shot while tour guide Donnie (Nicolas Wright) becomes increasingly frustrated with this know-it-all kid in his group. Then things start blowing up, and there are more important things to be frustrated about, such as the group of heavily-armed men now holding the tour group hostage.

Meanwhile, Jamie Foxx of Django Unchained, here playing President Sawyer, takes the advice of the head of his Secret Service detail (James Woods) and heads down to the heavily-fortified bunker underneath the White House that's supposed to keep him safe, but which doesn't work any better in this movie than it did in the last one. This time he doesn't get stuck down there, at least. Of course he's no safer running through the building with Cale, which is what ends up happening. Cale's trying to protect the president while also looking for Emily, who isn't with the other hostages because she had to excuse herself to one of the White House's 35 bathrooms.

Jason Clarke of The Great Gatsby is here leading the group of mercenaries who are taking over. They were much, much sneakier this time, since they have maybe a dozen or so men instead of the hordes they had in Olympus, which luckily means there's also a lot less gore. It is PG-13, after all.

Really, it just seems like they had more fun with this particular attack on that poor building (Though according to Donnie, it was originally three buildings). There are a few places where the plot gets a little improbable (the bad guys are exceptionally stupid once or twice, for example, and there's a rather unfortunate chase scene), but the characters are very likable. I think if there was a way to combine the characters from this flick with the plot from the other one, it would be a really good movie. Sadly, I can't think of any way to do that.

I'll go with three and a quarter. There are some good individual scenes and good dialogue, but overall it doesn't always seem to click like it should somehow. It suffered a bit from having too many characters -- I haven't even mentioned the odd computer hacker played by Jimmi Simpson of Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter, Lance Reddick from Jonah Hex as a a Very Important General, or Michael Murphy (Phase IV) as Vice-President Hammond. The movie has, however, inspired me to plan a trip to see the White House myself. I need to get over there before someone tries taking it over for real.

Image: 
The Capitol dome exploding.  Remember, fireworks are not toys.

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