Antoine Fuqua’s testosterone-fuelled thriller contrives a Die Hard In The White House scenario from an assault on Capitol Hill by heavily armed Korean terrorists who are fed up with America meddling in their affairs.
Overblown action sequences, realised with inconsistent digital trickery, guarantee a healthy three-figure body count in the opening hour.
The chilling centrepiece is a bomber plane flying low over the city, strafing innocent pedestrians before scything the pinnacle off the Washington Monument.
The needle’s delayed collapse, showering debris on to beleaguered tourists, conjures unfortunate memories of the World Trade Centre.
Fuqua lights the fuse on the summer blockbuster season with an almighty, ground-shaking bang.
Following a tragedy on his watch, grizzled Secret Service agent Mike Banning (Gerard Butler) is reassigned to a desk job at the Treasury Department.
It’s a far cry from his former detail, guarding US President Benjamin Asher (Aaron Eckhart) and son Connor (Finley Jacobsen).
A high-profile visit by the prime minister of South Korea, Lee Tae-Woo (Keong Sim), descends into carnage when terrorists storm the most iconic building in Washington, DC.
The militia kills almost the entire presidential security detail and takes Asher hostage in a nuclear-proof bunker.
Mike races to the scene and infiltrates the shattered ruins of the White House, determined to protect the president and atone for past mistakes.
Meanwhile, with the president and vice president indisposed, Allan Trumbull (Morgan Freeman), the Speaker of the House, assumes temporary command, flanked by Secret Service head honcho Lynne Jacobs (Angela Bassett) and US Army General Edward Clegg (Robert Forster).