PARAMILITARIES suddenly take over the White House - and only one troubled man can stop them. Who are you going to call?
Just months after Antoine Fuqua's Olympus Has Fallen crashed into cinemas – Aaron Eckhart was the President, Gerard Butler his gung-ho saviour and Morgan Freeman the House speaker – in steps disaster-movie-maker-extraordinaire Roland Emmerich to try to up the ante.
This time it's not North Korea invading the Oval Office but disgruntled US mercenaries, whose leader is played by rising Aussie star Jason Clarke (Zero Dark Thirty, Lawless, Swerve et al).
They've blown up Capitol Hill – remember, Emmerich (Independence Day) loves torching stuff – so the White House goes into lockdown.
Here, to bring matters up to date, the President (played by Jamie Foxx) is black, and is – wait for it – negotiating a demilitarisation of the Middle East. Hollywood may be short of ideas, but it knows a timely hook when it sees ones.
While White House Down's premise is preposterous, it just about pips Fuqua's equally silly White House invasion film to the post, thanks to its leads. Tatum, now a bona fide leading man after some solid roles (and impressive turns), can handle his character's Washington DC policing troubles with ease.
Foxx was also, surely, a shoo-in as the President. The two riff off one another nicely, offering a buddy relationship lacking from Olympus Has Fallen's Eckhart and Butler.
And Gyllenhaal is always a welcome sight, adding typical sassy savviness to proceedings.
But, ultimately, this is a Roland Emmerich picture, and we're not allowed to forget it.
Cue explosions galore, a convoluted subplot (which aims to pitch Richard Jenkins' Speaker as a Republican-esque power player with his own agenda), and a narrative ripped straight out of the Die Hard school of action filmmaking. There is more bang for your buck when Emmerich is in town.
While it's easy to dismiss this stuff, there is a cultural curiosity behind these films. After all, why is Hollywood appearing to be obsessing with America's once great seat of power? Could it be to offer a distraction from the nation's woes, its slow economic recovery, its loss of muscle on the world stage?
With shifts in power bases around the world, seeing the US as the lone superpower on screen, writ large, seems almost quaint, as if from a bygone era. But it can only go so far in soothing the nation's battered spirit.
Critical Rating: 6/10.
First published in The Sun-Herald and The Sunday Age (Australia).