August 27, 2013

Red Dawn/Olympus Has Fallen

It's hard to be a hack action filmmaker these days. In this era of global harmony and peace among nations, there aren't any dastardly villains anymore for Buck Plankchest to shoot at the end of the movie just before he kisses Anorexic White Woman (with Collagen-Enhanced Lips!) as the credits roll. Since the fall of the Evil Empire deprived us of the Russians and their subsidiaries in Eastern Europe as go-to bad guys, bad action movie producers have been on the hunt for the next great enemy of 'Murika. We used Muslim terrorists for a while, but since one of their hare-brained schemes actually worked in real life (Nevar forget!!!1!11oneoneone), they can't be goofy movie psychos anymore. We can't shoot Europeans because they more or less do what we say. We can't shoot the Japanese because they make us stuff. The Chinese keep our currency afloat, the Indians take care of us when we're sick and build our bridges, the Arabs sell us oil. Oh sub-Michael Bays of the world, where can you turn for a true threat to freedom, democracy, mom, and apple pie?

To North Korea, of course, also known as the Democratic People's Republic of Korea Democracy Republic People, or the DPRK, or That I'm So Ronery Country.

They're nonwhite, they hate America, they don't make anything or have any money, and they have no minority presence within the Empire to protest their negative portrayal in Hollywood. They're perfect! Plus, their leadership is a series of doofy fat guys.

So we have North Korea, a country so poor its people are losing relative height due to malnutrition, trumped up into a Dire Threat to the Empire Itself. We're talking about a leadership so inept there remains doubt that their nuclear bombs actually work. When North Korea declares war on the South, people in Seoul don't even look up from their lattes, yet we're to believe Kim Jong Un is just one fit of pique away from conquering the western half of the Empire, or storming the Imperial Palace and taking the Emperor captive.

People, when the Swayze died, so did your Red Dawn remake that nobody asked for and nobody wants. Remaking Red Dawn without Pat's Power Mullet is like nabbing Princess Vespa's empty Mercedes: All you're left with is a nice-looking and rather expensive hollow shell. In Red Dawn: The Real One, the Soviet Union launched a surprise attack on the Empire and seized the West Coast, and since the rest of the country sorta shrugged and muttered "Best thing, really", only the Swayze and his merry band of high school football players could resist the iron-fisted rule of the dastardly Commies. The producers of the remake decided to replace the bygone Soviet Communists with the in-name-only Chinese Communists, but China said no, so the producers re-cut the film to transform China into North Korea. It's movie magic!

So North Korea conquers the West Coast of the Empire, despite having a population significantly smaller than the state of California alone and lacking the facilities to deliver weapons, troops, or supplies to the theater of conflict. (Lip service is paid to this fact with a single throwaway line that Russia delivered the DPRK's troops, so why they didn't just make the Russians the enemy in the first place is anybody's guess.) Anyone who doesn't toe the Commie line gets locked into a giant prison on the edge of town. That means our old buddy Thor has to take up Mjölnir and go forth to do righteous battle with the million man army of mighty North Korea. Many shootings and explosions ensue. The North Koreans are pretty stupid and easily fooled by the plucky "teens", so I suppose I shouldn't have been surprised when the film ends not with the original's realistic downbeat ending (eventually the resistance is discovered by the Soviets and wiped out) but with the Wolverines liberating the prisoners and re-taking their town as triumphant music plays, an eagle sheds a single tear, and an Imperial flag waves in front of the camera.

As stupid as Red Dawn is, Die Hard in the White House is even worse. King Leonidas stars as John McClane and charisma-free Rick Yune is Hans Gruber, with that unappealing guy from The Dark Knight as the Emperor who gets kidnapped by North Korean commandos after they take over the Imperial Palace. In a highly realistic sequence, a four-engine prop cargo plane that couldn't possibly make it from North Korea to the Imperial homeland shoots people at random while our own TIE fighter pilots defending the capital look up and wonder where all the gunfire's coming from. Okay, that's not fair, two American fighters did scramble to intercept the bogey when it was maybe a couple miles from the Imperial Palace. Of course, they flew right into the path of the enemy plane's fixed sideways-firing guns instead of, I don't know, planting themselves on his six to acquire a missile lock from safety, so they're quickly disposed of. Ah-ha! All this was a ruse, for no sooner is the enemy plane is finally shot down than the North Korean commandos dressed as tourists start mowing down Secret Service agents in their ground assault on the Palace. Of course they waited until the plane crashed to launch their little attack, thus negating the whole "distraction" thing, but since the movie only allows Leonidas to actually hit the North Koreans with his gun, the evil Commies fairly quickly and easily manage to dispose of the Secret Service and stormtroopers defending the Palace.

Now I know what you're asking: Why is Rick Yune's Korean still so goddamned bad? No, I'm sorry, you're asking why Rick Yune has taken the Palace. Answer: He wants to destroy the Empire's nuclear arsenal. I'm not kidding. That's the goal. Yune needs three codes to activate Cerberus, a program that will cause all of America's ICBMs to self-destruct in their silos, leaving the Empire defenseless before a Russian first strike. (Of course 2/3 of our nuclear weapons are missiles on submarines which wouldn't be affected, but why start with logic now?). Leonidas has to rescue to the Emperor's son because threatening the kid is the only way Yune can get the Emperor to reveal the third activation code. Leo rescues the kid an hour into the movie--though sadly without screaming "This is AMERICA!" and kicking a colored man down a well--and so Yune is defeated. The movie then refuses to play by its own stupid rules when Yune activates Cerberus even though he doesn't have the third code. Somehow this means the ICBMs themselves will utterly destroy the Empire even though self-destructing an ICBM wouldn't cause its warhead to detonate and ICBMs are located in remote areas just so their nuclear destruction would cause the least possible harm. Goddamn, this is the laziest big-budget script I've seen in a while.

Meanwhile, Morgan Freeman and Angela Bassett sit in a room somewhere and recite their lines in that voice that actors use when they're just in it for the paycheck. This is the first time I've ever seen a Freeman performance that could be described as "phoning it in", and by God I hope it's the last time. I know this movie didn't deserve a genuine Morgan Freeman performance, but he looked so unhappy to be there that every time he appeared I just wanted to give him a hug and tell him everything's going to be okay. And of course it was okay for him, since neither he nor Bassett had to suffer through watching this crap. If you guessed the movie ends with Leonidas disabling Cerberus with just one second to spare on its bright red countdown display, then you watch too many shitty action movies.

God it pains me to say this, but Behind Enemy Lines II had North Koreans that were more recognizable than either of these big-budget travesties had. When you can digitally swap one country's flag for another and re-dub a few lines from one language to another and thereby completely change the identity of your movie's villains, exactly how much thought did you put into your movie? Lines sucked donkey balls, but at least its creators attempted to incorporate the culture of its cardboard villains. These Hollywood studio crapfests can't even be bothered to do that. Interchangeable villains in a paint-by-numbers plot add up to a bland miasma of mediocrity.

I've got to stop watching these snooze-inducing blockbusters and find something truly godawful, something to get royally pissed off about. Hmm, let's see what I've got in my stack of $2 DVDs....