With London Has Fallen, the new entry into the franchise, stirring up controversy with the easily offended, I decided to check out the original. I was told the movie is similar to Die Hard, which for me is possibly the highest praise an actioner can get, so it was Action Movie Night in the Fontaine household.
First, the short version.
Good news: the movie is indeed extremely similar to Dies Hard.
Bad news: except for possibly our hero, not one character in the move had seen Die Hard.
Bottom line: if you like dumb action movies, bring on the popcorn.
Still reading? OK, then.
The main plot revolves around a Korean terrorist (props for not being a neo-Nazi or a crazed vet) taking over the White House in a way that might be plausible in a low-caliber video game but pretty much tells us from the outset to suspend all disbelief and just go with it. Our hero, an ex-Secret Service agent traumatized from a tragedy he did not prevent and currently working across the street, makes his way over and becomes Bruce Willis, only fully dressed and possessing shoes but not the endless supply of wisecracks. The closest he comes is saying "I have the need to ____-ing know" while sitting in the President's chair in the Oval Office and holding a gynormous machine gun.
Sigh. There will never be another Die Hard.
The beats of the plot are by the numbers, including, but not limited to, the people in charge making boneheaded decisions while the hero screams in frustration; the baddie getting progressively more annoyed at the interference and telling one of his henchmen to "kill him"; the meet-up between the hero and a friendly who's not a friendly; and, in the most shameless Die Hard homage, the hero professing his love of his wife while removing a sharp object from his body.
There is one barely watchable (for my sensibilities) scene that somewhat answers my pet peeve of female characters always winning fights. Simply put, it's decidedly unpleasant to watch a woman being beaten by a man, and no amount of social conditioning could make us feel differently. I understand, of course, that this was precisely the intention of the script writers, but I am simply reporting, as someone who likes violent movies, that I could have definitely done without that scene.
There are also a few pleasant surprises. The semi-obligatory child character is not at all annoying and the related subplot is handled very well. The fight scenes are great and show just the right balance of realism while staying away from over-the-top gore, with the final showdown being suitably satisfying. And finally, for the unabashed American patriots among us, the closing scenes deliver precisely what we want.
Do I recommend the movie? Absolutely, as long as you know precisely what it is: a rare, old-fashioned, B-level entertainment. Put your brain on hold lest it explodes from the plot holes (what the hey happened with the third code? hello?? anyone???) and enjoy.