OLYMPUS HAS FALLEN Blu-ray Review

     September 17, 2013

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By now you’ve all heard about Olympus Has Fallen‘sDie Hard in the White House” pitch.  It’s a brilliant idea and it’s surprising that it took so damn long for someone to milk.  The problem is that Antoine Fuqua and company didn’t really take the concept beyond the basic premise of a highly skilled loner taking on a gang of terrorists by himself.  The film is drained of any of Die Hard‘s charm and cleverness and fills in the gaps with a bewildering tone and eye-rolling patriotism.  The action scenes are top notch though, so fans of the genre will definitely be consoled.  But anyone looking for the new John McClane will be severely bummed. And now you can relive the mixed experience again with the Sony Blu-ray, which is boasts unreal 5.1 audio.  More on our review of the Olympus Has Fallen Blu-ray after the jump.

olympus-has-fallen-aaron-eckhart-ashley-juddFollowing a well-crafted prologue in which we’re introduced to Secret Service Agent Mike Banning (Gerard Butler) and President Asher (Aaron Eckhart), Olympus Has Fallen doesn’t waste any time getting to the ‘splosions.  After a tragic incident on an icy road in which the first lady was killed, Banning transferred to the Treasury Department.  He’s a pencil-pusher now and despite being haunted by the incident, he’s getting itchy to get back in the action.  Lucky for him that right down the block, a group of ridiculously-armed terrorists storm the White House.

When the first CGI effect turned up, I thought something was wrong with my Blu-ray player.  The black hawk helicopters and fighter planes are beyond cheaply animated, which makes most of the action look like a video game cut scene.  The only action parts worth a damn are the close-combat ones.  The hallways and secret passages of the White House lend themselves nicely to Bourne-style fighting.  Butler pulls it off too, covertly breaking necks and bucking down everyone he comes across.  The showdown between him and Kang (Rick Yune) is more MMA style and makes a nice final fight to wrap things up.

Although he can kick some ass, Butler is no John McClane.  He makes some attempts at smarmy one-liners, but he never pulls it off.  One painful quip involved him challenging Kang to a game of “fuck off.”  “I’ll start,” he says as he switches off his walkie.  Ouch.  Butler lacks that natural bad attitude Bruce Willis embodies.  It would’ve been better if they had just made him a silent killer.  Or a mute.  Mute would’ve been good.  I’m not saying he’s a bad actor, he’s just a one-dimensional action star.  Law Abiding Citizen is still his best film and you know it.

olympus-has-fallen-morgan-freeman-angela-bassettMorgan Freeman plays it so chill as Speaker of the House. When the terrorists wring their hands tighter around the nation’s throat, he just leans back in his chair with a cold, contemplative look on his face. Freeman may have one of the most revered voices in the business, but he’s at the level now where he doesn’t have to say shit to get his point across. That being said, he does get the best line in film – the “They’ve opened the gates of hell” one from the trailer.  His presence certainly elevates the film for the brief moments he’s in it.  Butler may be playing the hero, but Freeman is the soul.

Eckhart doesn’t get much to do beyond breathing heavily and sweating.  In the prologue, he’s seen (poorly) sparring with Butler, so you’d think he’d possess some fighting chops of his own.  He spends most of the film tied to a railing though.  By his side is the great Melissa Leo as the Secretary of Defense.  She, unfortunately, is a part of the film’s most laughable moment: reciting the Pledge of Allegiance as she’s dragged to her presumed death.  I appreciate the sentiment, but holy shit are you kidding me?

OHF shoves patriotism down your throat like this a few times during its 120 minute running time.  The tone of these flag-saluting moments is juxtaposed with Butler stabbing people in the head with a serrated knife.  This creates a petty muddled tone and fairly hollow feeling to it all.  It’s certainly not Fuqua’s best showing (he’s way better at lower-budget fare).  But man, does Butler kick some ass.  I read in other reviews people complain about the apolitical nature of the film.  You kidding me?  Anyone looking for a serious discussion about terrorism or U.S. occupations, look elsewhere.  And with its impressive audio and sharp picture, action fans will definitely want to have this one on the shelf.

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OHF is presented in 1080p HD in 2.40:1 widescreen.  Although it’s not the sharpest picture I’ve seen on a contemporary release, it’s not perfectly adequate.  The film is naturally dark once the shit hits the fan, so there’s a lot of bland areas of shadow.  The exterior shots look great though, with loads of clarity and detail.  The DTS-HD 5.1 Master Audio track is phenomenal.  This is how you’d wish every theatrical action film would sound on home video.  Seriously, expect calls from the neighbors watching this bitch.

The special features, on the other hand, are kinda weak.  The “Making of” is only 12 minutes long, though there are more technically specific supplements that look at choreography, effects, and the black hawk sequence.  There’s a blooper real too and an ultra-violet digital copy, which I really wish they would do away with.  Is anyone using the UV copy?  Ever?

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