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White House Down Review: A Let Down
White House Down is the second and more child-friendly attempt of a Die Hard film set in the White House. Following the standard action plot of “one versus many” that Die Hard helped established, a lone police officer (Channing Tatum in his best acting role since This Is the End) has to take out a cadre of terrorists who have taken over the White House during his coincidental visit there with his President fangirl daughter. In another coincidence, Channing’s ally and escort character happens to be President Not Obama (Jamie Foxx), a President who is better at using political rhetoric than an assault rifle. This unlikely duo exchange witticisms with each other while exchanging various degrees of firepower with those terrorists led by a white guy (Jason Clarke).
I’ll give credit to White House Down for presenting a threat to the free world who isn’t a current hot button Middle Eastern or North Korean terrorist leader that could make the film double as pro-America propaganda. Though that credit is quickly reneged when I know that decision was more about earning more international screenings than actual social commentary. There’s no sense biting the international market hand that may potentially feed you.
I wanted to review White House Down on its own original features. Butthe film simply tries too hard to be the breeding result of Die Hard and Air Force One (in itself a film that follows the Die Hard formula). So how is it as a Die Hard film?
Objectively, White House Down is a competent mix of action and humor like Die Hard. But it’s of those later Die Hard films that forgot how to be a Die Hard film where Bruce Willis is pretty much Superman with a stupid haircut and nigh invulnerability. At least in the first Die Hard film, McClane had the vulnerability of lacking shoes and limited bullets, which made his improvisation action more tense and each kill a satisfying progression to his completion.
White House Down is simply an excess of action scenes tied together with a thin plot, an escort mission, and occasional vehicle sections that makes for a better video game than film–probably starring a character voiced by a smug Nolan North. Channing’s character lacks the vulnerability, or character development to be a hero worth rooting for. Instead of feeling excitement of seeing how Channing will outwit his group of enemies, you will easily predict that Channing + Room full of bad guys = Room full of dead bad guys. This results in the film’s action becoming excessive, repetitive, and above all boring.
Having to escort the President and having a teenage daughter in danger is an attempt to add some stakes to Channing’s mission. But they are more props than characters. The President is the bumbling escort character that either had limited AI programming or is the newbie co-op player you got matched up with in Resident Evil who ends up scarfing all the healing items and wasting the precious ammo. When he’s actually competent enough, the two become two smug guys who take on bad guys like an office worker taking on his inbox. Channing’s daughter is someone protected by the PG-13 rating and being a kid. Given their importance, these two characters that Channing cares about end up being too important to have anything really threatening done to them, which kills the tension and stakes.
I can feel some people comment about my expectations for White House Down being too high and I should watch the film as a summer blockbuster and write about the fun escapism that I had. To which I can wholeheartedly say that I watched White House Down as part of my summer blockbuster list and didn’t have fun.