In ‘White House Down’, ‘Hail to the Chief’ turns into a hail of bullets. Yup, it must be summer blockbuster season again. When a rag-tag group of mercenaries take over the White House, only major action set pieces and Channing Tatum can save the day. Jamie Foxx appears Presidential as his character flips from peace-loving liberal to rocket-launching tough guy.
John Cale (Tatum) is part of the Capitol Police, protecting the Speaker of the House Eli Raphelson (Richard Jenkins). John is attempting (again) to get hired by the Secret Service, so he can protect the President, James Sawyer (Foxx). John has a daughter and a broken marriage. His kid Emily (Joey King) is oh so grown-up at 11, because she calls him ‘John’. But she is still cute as a button, and obsessed with the White House.
John and Emily go to the White House where John has an interview with Carol Finnerty (Maggie Gyllenhaal) with the Service. She turns him down, and then needs to leave because the Presidential Detail head, Martin Walker (James Woods) is there for his last day before retiring. John and Emily go on the White House tour.
When a bomb explodes in the Capitol building, all hell is breaking loose in the White House. Disguised as repair workers, a group of paramilitary mercenaries take over the facility and grab the President. Martin Walker is found to have a major beef against the country and he is shown to be the leader. Martin is in cahoots with the top bad guy, Emil Stenz (Jason Clarke). There is also a top hacker named Skip Taylor (Jimmi Simpson), who takes over the White House control room.
John and Emily are on the tour, where the tour guide Donnie (Nicholas Wright) starts to freak out when the mercenaries find the tour group. They are all taken hostage, but John escapes and finds President Sawyer. John is an ex-Marine and is ready to fight it out. James Sawyer is unsure when it comes to fighting. John knows that Emily is still held hostage and will not leave without her. John was turned down for Secret Service detail, but winds up protecting the Big Guy.
The action amps up to an eleven, when John and James lead a Presidential SUV chase on the lawn with the Bad Guys, and there are Bad Guys with missiles on the roof to shoot down Delta Force copters coming in for an attack, and of course nuclear launch codes are on the line. The President is assumed dead (a couple of times) and the Veep becomes Commander-in-Chief, until the Bad Guys attack him in Air Force One. Then the Speaker of the House gets the job.
The Bad Guys, with Martin Walker and Emil Stenz in charge, are a laughable group. They are so smart to get into the White House in the first place, but they cannot capture the President? John Cale is able to keep them at bay and gives President Sawyer some tips on NRA safety. They finally get the President by using Emily as a bargaining chip. When all the Bad Guys are eliminated, are there others in the conspiracy to take over the White House? They would not have it any other way!
The basic plot is recycled from ‘Die Hard’ with even the main character having the same initials as John McClane. The ‘off-duty’ cop is in the wrong time at the wrong place, and hands it to the Bad Guys with his wit and grit. John Cale and President Sawyer even use the elevator shaft to escape the Bad Guys. John has a family member in the Nokatomi Plaza , I mean, in the White House who is take hostage. John even wears a dirty white T-shirt in much of movie, in a very ‘Die Hard’ way.
All in all, it is a pretty loud and loony take on this year’s theme of ‘White House is in Danger’ (see ‘Olympus has Fallen’). The plot holes are a’plenty, but who cares? The explosions are big and the shoot-outs are outrageous. The movie is just a weird fantasy where Bad Guys are right-wing fanatics, and the liberal President can take ‘em out, with the help of the military.
Like that commercial from a few years back: ‘This is the White House. I’ve fallen and I can’t get up…’