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National insecurity White House Down'

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Tatum, Foxx a dynamic duo

Hollywood loves offering up ideas in pairs. Whether you're talking about asteroids ('Deep Impact' and Armageddon'), volcanoes ('Volcano' and 'Dante's Peak') or even animated insects ('Antz' and 'Bug's Life'), we often see films with similar concepts appear at roughly the same time.

In 2013, one of those paired ideas is 'terrorists take over the White House.' We've already seen 'Olympus Has Fallen' this year, where Gerard Butler has to fight his way through the White House. Now, it's Channing Tatum's turn in 'White House Down.'

John Cale (Tatum, 'Side Effects') is a military veteran who works security for Speaker of the House Raphelson (Richard Jenkins, 'Killing Them Softly'). He's the sort of guy who has made some mistakes in the past - particularly in terms of his relationship with his daughter Emily (Joey King, 'Oz the Great and Powerful'). So when Cale lands an interview with Deputy Director Finnerty (Maggie Gyllenhaal, 'Won't Back Down') who will soon land the top job after Director Walker (James Woods, 'Jobs') retires to join the Secret Service, he takes Emily along in an effort to impress her.

Unfortunately, President Sawyer (Jamie Foxx, 'Django Unchained') has made some powerful enemies with his attempt at a massive Middle East peace accord one in which all U.S. troops are removed from the region. Those enemies including some from high places within the government have arranged for the White House to be taken down. A paramilitary group led by a disgraced former Special Forces soldier named Stenz (Jason Clarke, 'Zero Dark Thirty') takes the White House with the intent of kidnapping the President.

As you might expect, it's up to John Cale to help save President Sawyer. Before long, the two men find themselves facing long odds in an attempt to not only save the life of the President, but of the dozens of hostages still held by the invaders. And all the while, machinations from much higher up the ladder are playing out, leaving Cale and Sawyer unsure what to do or who to trust.

In many ways, 'White House Down' is the quintessential summer movie much more so than its seeming spiritual sibling 'Olympus Has Fallen.' While both feature a White House under siege, 'WHD' is built around the chemistry between Tatum and Foxx; there are a surprising number of comedic moments (whether all of those moments are intended to be humorous is something else entirely) to go along with the high volume of expended ammunition.

And the two leads undeniably fit together. Tatum gets the best fight scenes, Foxx gets the best one-liners it's a reasonable division of labor. Neither man is a particularly gifted actor, but the film masks their weaknesses reasonably well. And the supporting cast is excellent; frankly, it's far better than you'd expect for a movie like this one. Gyllenhaal, Woods and Jenkins all offer strong performances. Young Joey King does as good a job as you could expect from a 13-year-old. And Clarke absolutely nails it; the Australian is one of those actors who seems to get better every time you see him.

Director Roland Emmerich maybe relies a bit too much on quick-cut action sequences, but one still must concede that no one in Hollywood lays waste to an iconic location quite like he does. 'White House Down' might be choppy and clich-laden, but there's no denying that it was a lot of fun to watch. People in my screening actually clapped at the climactic moment cheesiness aside, there was something visceral about the whole thing.

Value judgments such as 'good' and 'bad' don't really apply to a movie like this one. 'White House Down' is a distillation of everything that makes a film into a summer action blockbuster. Good or bad, the one thing that I can say for certain is that it is capital-F fun. And really, why else go to the movies in the summertime?

3.5 out of 5

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