Film Face-off: 'Die Hard' vs. 'White House Down'

Film Face-off: 'Die Hard' vs. 'White House Down'

Jul 01, 2013

Sure, the easy thing to do would have been to compare White House Down with the other White House/president-under-attack movie that just came out three months ago known as Olympus Has Fallen. And by "easy" I mean that Jacob Hall already did it with his fantastic article "How Does 'White House Down' Compare to 'Olympus Has Fallen'?" He correctly pointed out that White House Down is a better flick.

Let's consider that the first round, and thrust Down into the finals against the big boy. That's right, in this week's Film Face-off it's time for this "Die Hard at the White House" film to take on Die Hard.

 

John and His Sidekick

White House Down

John Cale (Channing Tatum) is a Capitol police officer who has dreams to be in the Secret Service (to impress his 11-year-old daughter). John has bounced around in life with many jobs. Sure, he has the skills, but he has trouble following the rules and filing his paper work. President James Sawyer (Jamie Foxx) wants peace in the Middle East and loves Abraham Lincoln. He doesn't have a military background.

Die Hard

John McClane (Bruce Willis) is a NYPD officer who attends his estranged wife's Christmas party in Los Angeles. He's definitely a loose cannon, who has more street smarts than most cops, as well as the FBI. Sergeant Al Powell (Reginald VelJohnson) is a good cop, who is McClane's only contact with the outside world.

Winner: Die Hard. No one is beating McClane, even if his opponent has the president on his side. Here is a made-up reason why. If an evil villain told Cale and McClane they had to fight to death in order to save the person they love, Cale would start punching. McClane would just kill the villain. Tatum has a deer-in-headlights noble look to him that works in White House Down, reacting to every crazy thing that comes his way. McClane takes the lead, outthinking the evildoers. Plus, McClane is sarcastic and feels put upon while dealing with these otherworldly events. This is perfectly captured with his line, "Come out to the coast, we'll get together, have a few laughs," while holding a lighter in an air vent. Cale and President Sawyer are definitely the best parts of White House Down, getting good laughs from Foxx's performance (especially while holding a rocker launcher). That doesn't compare to the heart-to-heart moments shared by McClane and Powell, or even VelJohnson's acting during his Twinkie scene.

 

Blowing Things Up

White House Down

First we have the U.S. Capitol getting obliterated, but that's not the only thing. We also have a plane, some helicopters, a car, pool house and a neck.

Die Hard

Bad guys attack with rockets when a SWAT team finally arrives. A floor from Nakatomi Plaza, the roof and a helicopter go boom.

Winner: White House Down. Bigger is better in this case. Roland Emmerich even has a reference to blowing up the White House in Independence Day. That's right, he's reminding you of other explosions while you watch new ones. Please notice that this category isn't titled "Tension." There is nothing that comes close to McClane jumping off the roof, then pushing off the window with his bloody feet, finally releasing himself from the fire hose before getting dragged out of the building. I honestly just got sweaty paws thinking about that sequence.

 

Family

White House Down

Joey King plays 11-year-old Emily, who is a know-it-all who loves President James Sawyer and all things political. She also has a talent for waiving flags.

Die Hard

Bonnie Bedelia plays Holly Gennaro McClane. She uses Gennaro on the job, which hurts McClane's pride. She also has her husband's instincts.

Winner: Die Hard. This is the biggest win on the board. Give me Holly any day of the week. The only time I am captivated with Emily is when her dad is worried she might get picked on at school. Sure, she shows initiative trying to get video of the bad guys, but isn't that because she's just a kid and doesn't understand the actual danger she's in? It's not bravery that has her standing up to the bad guys, it's ignorance. Holly understands the danger she and her fellow employees are in, just think about Harry (Hart Bochner) and the trouble she tries to save him from. In real life, saving your young daughter is more compelling than saving your estranged wife. In a movie, it's not.

 

Villains

White House Down

I just received a presidential order allowing me to reveal a plot spoiler about a White House Down villain. James Woods plays Walker, the head of the president's security, who pulls off the White House takeover. He has plenty of colorful henchmen.

Die Hard

Hans Gruber (Alan Rickman) is a terrorist out for political revenge... or is he? He's not. Gruber wants to get his Gruby (instead of grubby, yeah, you get it) little hands on some serious cash. He has colorful henchmen.

Winner: Die Hard. First let's talk about the henchmen. Jason Clarke is a former special ops soldier in Down. While I'm happy Clarke is getting work, this felt like an odd role since his brilliant performance from Zero Dark Thirty is barely in the past. Otherwise, I loved the over-the-top characters of Tyler (Jimmi Simpson) the hacker, and the gun-happy Killick (Kevin Rankin). Tyler and Killick beat the flowing blond locks of Karl (Alexander Godunov) and the others (including one of my favorite's Al Leong) in the comedy department, but not drama. For the main villain, Gruber is great, Woods is wanting. Walker is scattered, and has a lot on his plate. So when we see the typical Woods swagger, it actually feels a little out of place for the character. Since 1988, action/adventure/superhero movies have been attempting to find the same level of evil brillance that Rickman brought to the plate, and they'll been failing.

 

Quotes

White House Down

While time will tell, I think the main ones will be "I choose the pen," and "Get your hands off my Jordans."

Die Hard

"Come out to the coast," "Nine million terrorists in the world and I gotta kill one with feet smaller than my sister," and of course "Yippee Yippee-ki-yay, motherf**ker."

Winner: Die Hard. The brilliance of the "Yippee" line is that the German Hans Gruber has taunted American McClane with cowboy jabs. Finally, at the very end, McClane throws in back in his face, with the help from a gun taped to his back. The slightly odd thing with White House Down is that Cale doesn't get the good one-liners. Both of the above are from Foxx's President Sawyer.

 

OVERALL WINNER: Die Hard over White House Down, 4-1.

While some are feeling like White House Down is allowed to sit at the same table as its successor Die Hard, it's just a better version of the movie we just saw (Olympus Has Fallen). Sure, there were other categories I considered. "Fun Insanity" would have given White House Down a victory with donuts happening on the White House lawn. I think the use of radio communication in Die Hard is equaling convenient as the amazing cell phone reception in White House Down. I didn't even mention the one big flaw of Die Hard. They employed the worst looking stunt double of all time. Next time you watch the most brilliant action movie of my lifetime, watch McClane fight, and instead of Willis, you'll notice someone with an even fuller head of hair.

Categories: Features, In Theaters
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