Twenty-five years ago, Sandra Boynton wrote a greeting card where a cat tells his or her paramour, “What I lack in finesse, I make up with raw enthusiasm.” It’s a cute sentiment, and it also serves as a shockingly good description of director Roland Emmerich’s filmography (“2012,” “The Day After Tomorrow,” “Independence Day”). His movies are not what one would call subtle, but they’re infused with a relentlessness that carries them through even the darkest plot hole and corniest joke.
None of Emmerich’s movies, though, works as hard as “White House Down.” This is a script that feels like it was born from a weekend binge session of caffeine and ‘90s-era Jerry Bruckheimer movies, capped off with about 30 minutes of Wikipedia searches on the layout of the White House and the succession of the chain of command during wartime. And yet, somehow, it (mostly) rises above its shortcomings to deliver an entertaining shoot ‘em up. Channing Tatum should get the lion’s share of the credit for this, thanks to his effortless charm, but it doesn’t hurt that he and Jamie Foxx have good chemistry as well.
Former soldier John Cale (Tatum) is trying to land a job with the Secret Service, and he brings his estranged political junkie daughter Emily (Joey King, who looks like the little sister of Alia Shawkat) with him to his interview at the White House in the hopes of buttering her up. While they are there, a group of goons infiltrates the grounds and dispatches with White House security rather quickly. John and Emily were apart when the attack takes place, and as John looks for Emily, he winds up locating and rescuing President Sawyer (Foxx), though both are still trapped inside the White House. Cale and Sawyer try to sort out why the siege is happening and who could be responsible, but more importantly for Cale, he needs to find Emily.