This 'Die Hard'-like thriller relies on the chemistry of Channing Tatum and Jamie Foxx.
"Tour's over," yells a shotgun-toting terrorist who takes a group of Washington, D.C., visitors hostage in the preposterousWhite House Down.
But the fireworks have just begun.
With its well-choreographed mayhem,Down(* * ½ out of four; rated PG-13, opens in select cities Thursday and nationwide Friday) is an over-the top,Die Hard-style thriller that will make pulses race more than the recent, similarly themedOlympus Has Fallen. While director Roland Emmerich (Independence Day) piles on outlandish scenarios, the chemistry of the lead actors mitigates the contrived setup and numbing explosions.
Just after President James Sawyer (Jamie Foxx) announces his plan to pull American troops out of the Middle East, an insurrection plot is set in motion.
After serving heroically in Afghanistan, John Cale (Channing Tatum) works as a police officer assigned to security for Speaker of the House Raphelson (Richard Jenkins). Cale is endearing thanks to his self-deprecating humor, low-key swagger and commitment to regain the love of his estranged 11-year-old daughter, Emily (Joey King). It also helps that he braves a legion of guerrillas to single-handedly protect the president, even after getting turned down for a spot in the Secret Service.
To ensure that this $150 million movie makes a killing overseas, the terrorists are homegrown. A motley crew of Americans unaffiliated with any ideology - other than wanting to blow stuff up - takes over POTUS' stately home and wreaks havoc.
Sawyer is overtly Obama-esque: He's an inspiring orator, a levelheaded leader and a devoted family man, and he is criticized for being too scholarly. He's even a former smoker. But this is Hollywood's D.C., so when enough has clearly become enough, the commander in chief whips off his wingtips, slips into athletic shoes and lobs a rocket launcher at the bad guys.
Foxx has just the right blend of dignity, smarts and affability to make us want to vote for him. Tatum is a consistently likable Everyman who proves his mettle à la Bruce Willis in theDie Hardmovies - with less smirking.
Maggie Gyllenhaal plays Carol Finnerty, a Secret Service official who rejects Cale as a job applicant, despite his war-hero status, mostly because he got C's in college. Cue mass audience sympathy. Making him even more lovable, Cale has brought Emily along for a White House tour following his interview. That's why they're in the house, so to speak, when the rebels take over.
All disbelief must be checked at the theater door. Emmerich's White House has less security than the tiniest airport pre-9/11. A janitor is actually packing bombs, as are the alleged repairmen working in the president's private theater. A crowd watches a car chase with Cale and Sawyer in a presidential limo being shot at by rebels on the White House lawn.
None of the actions taken by administration officials during the takeover make a lick of sense. So it's best to simply sit back and enjoy the camaraderie of Tatum and Foxx as they narrowly avert disaster.
Who can resist a war hero willing to risk everything to protect his adorable daughter and his high-minded president in one movie? It's popcorn patriotism at its finest.