Tripping over itself with rah rah ‘Muerica sentiment and laughably over the top, dumb action, London Has Fallen is ludicrous and stupid, but consistently entertaining.
While I enjoyed the first film, Olympus Has Fallen (Two Disc Combo: Blu-ray / DVD + UltraViolet Digital Copy), well enough, it didn’t strike me as the kind of property that warranted a second go-round. London definitely validates its existence beyond a basic cash grab and will most closely resonate with those who fondly remember the 80s glory days of Stallone, Schwarzenegger, Norris and Willis.
Following the sudden death of the British Prime Minister, the world leaders gather in London for the funeral. Among them are U.S. President Benjamin Asher (Aaron Eckhart) accompanied by his Secret Service director Lynn Jacobs (Angela Bassett) and ace operative Mike Banning (Gerard Butler).
Neither Banning or Jacobs are thrilled about the impromptu service, requiring a hastily thrown together security plan. Banning’s mind is hundreds of miles away as his wife Leah (Radha Mitchell) is due with their first child in weeks.
I’m almost impressed that it took four credited screenwriters to come up with this script. There’s nothing remotely complicated about it — essentially Banning aims and kills bad guys, occasionally spouts of a witty pun, rinse, repeat and call it a night.
One thing the screenwriters can agree on however is that America is NUMBER 1 bay-bee! Despite global newscasters framing the funeral as a potential threat with all the world leaders in attendance, only Banning has the skill and resourcefulness to keep his leader safe. There’s no shortage of eye-rolling moments and that is one of the biggest. Topping the list naturally is that the leaders of the terrorist attack are predictably all Middle Eastern. This continues to ensure studios are content offending an entire demographic/potential audience base.
Have an evil conglomerate mix of African, Italian, Canadian, British, Asian, Latino and one-percenter teaming up to get gunned down by the good guys. After the foreclosure crisis and the great recession, the narrative of ‘the evildoers’ just hailing from the Middle East feels more than a little outdated.
With London devastated by the coordinated assault and an EMP crippling technology, Banning has to evade pursuers content on executing Asher while getting word back to Washington and Vice President Trumbull (Morgan Freeman) and coordinating with the British response team led by Scotland Yard’s Chief Hazard (Colin Salmon, Resident Evil).
After a string of bombs, most recently the DOA disaster Gods of Egypt, Butler probably needs to fire his agent. It doesn’t take a lot of time to recognize this type of one-man wrecking crew action movie is Butler’s lane, his wheelhouse, his specialty. Butler seems so happily in his element that it’s a shame he wastes time in anything but this genre. As with Olympus, he’s the star of the show and despite a better than his average supporting cast, Butler is more than capable of carrying this kind of film.
Eckhart gets to loosen up a bit and have some fun playing the Murtaugh to Butler’s Riggs.
This is my first glimpse at Director Babak Najafi’s work, but hopefully it won’t be the last. Najafi doesn’t necessarily do anything especially groundbreaking, but his action instincts are exceptional. The action shootouts are clean and easy to decipher without senseless, quick-cut edits that disorient more often than dazzle and he comes up with some creative staging of the standard action scenario.
Emboldened by the success of like-minded president in jeopardy film White House Down, which incorporated far more humor into the mix than Olympus, the sequel finds Banning going heavy with the jokes and spouting pretty solid puns with each opponent he kills.
At times, the death and destruction feels a little too realistic and terrifying. While we’re closing in on two decades since 9-11, it’s still difficult seeing similar wanton carnage and not consider the toll this kind of attack would have in the real world. Watching the stop at nothing American hero take down any and every terrorists at times feels like propagandist fantasy, but it’s probably best not to think too hard about it and just enjoy the ride.
London Has Fallen is a tremendous 80s action movie that came out a few decades down the road. Its flaws are typical for the genre, but what it lacks in subtlety, it makes up for in inspired mayhem.
Rating: 7.5 out of 10