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Too much yammering kills action picture

By Gary Clift

“Olympus Has Fallen” demonstrates one of the great truisms about action movies. So long as guys are shooting, flying, running, and fighting, this new Antoine Fuqua film is fun to watch. When it gets to talking, all interest dies.

In a good action picture—”In the Line of Fire” comes to mind because it, too, was about a veteran Secret Service agent—there either isn’t much talking or at least the talking is only there to explain a few details in an otherwise clear and reasonable plot.

In a bad action picture, so much explanation is required that the director cuts frequently to TV news broadcasts. Take this as a Law of Movies: if Lawrence is ever shown on screen explaining the events, the movie is a waste of time.

The broadcaster is all over “Olympus Has Fallen,” though he always appears on TV, as if he were the Animals in a 1965 crime drama. Fuqua should have found all sorts of more organic ways to convey the information that the news reader does. Or, better yet, the plot could have been written so that explaining wasn’t required.

And maybe it really isn’t even in this picture. The story is relatively simple. Gerald Butler plays Banning, a Secret Service agent the president (Aaron) can’t stand to have around. You see, Banning was there when President Aster’s wife died in a car accident. But Banning doesn’t remind Aster’s son of bad times. Heck, he taught the kid all the escape routes built into the White House.

A come mole has wormed his way into the traveling party of the South Korean Prime Minister. When that head of state visits Washington, a C130 armed with silly technology (of the sort that requires explanation) attacks the Mall while a party of heavily armed fake tourists attack the White House. The President and the P.M. are hustled down into a bunker by Secret Service agents.

Then it turns out that everybody in the p.p.’s party is in with the attackers. They take Ashore hostage and begin demanding missile codes from others in the bunker. This also requires explanation which is also unnecessary to the movie proper.

At the Pentagon, the Speaker of the House (Moorage Freeman) gathers advisors. The mole gives them a brief time to withdraw U.S. military forces from the area of Korea. Meanwhile the Speaker is in communication with the sole surviving Secret Service agent in the White House, Banning.

While the movie is off explaining codes and what happens to nuclear weapons that are exploded in silos and force fields and so on, Banning is busy with several errands. He must kill off all the come guards. He must find the President’s son. He must provide the Pentagon with intelligence (of which they make no use). And, as the clock ticks, he must disable a computerized gadget set to light up America with radiation.

While the movie is showing Banning running, shooting, fighting, and hiding, it is fast fun. Fuqua knows how to shoot action scenes.

But there is altogether too much yammering here. And most of it is completely unnecessary. For example, we don’t need to know that the president is more likely to give in to the North Koreans if they have his 10-year-old son as a hostage. Why explain?

And why not replace all the other explanation with footage of the Animals in 1965? “House of the Rising Sun,”anyone?

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