a critiQal film review London Has Fallen (2016)

  • DVD
  • Blu-Ray

Plot: After the death of the British prime minister, the world's most powerful leaders gather in London to pay their respects. Without warning, terrorists unleash a devastating attack that leaves the city in chaos and ruins. Secret Service agent Mike Banning (Butler) springs into action to bring U.S. President Benjamin Asher (Eckhart) to safety. When Asher falls into the hands of the sinister organization, it's up to Banning to save his commander in chief from a horrible fate.

1152 words (Est. Reading Time 5m 45s)

When the sequel to Olympus Has Fallen (2013) was announced, I was interested in seeing it. After all, I had a good time watching the throwback action of the original, why wouldn’t I enjoy another round in London Has Fallen? And then the reviews started coming in…and it seemed like no one liked it. Once again, I listened, and stayed away from this sequel.

This weekend, however, I was online looking for something cheap to watch, and stumbled across a digital copy of London Has Fallen for $4. I decided to give it a shot, as I wouldn’t be out much if I didn’t like it. Gearing myself up, I sat down to check it out. Would this sequel be as fun as the original? Or would the critics have been right, and I should have stayed away?

Gerard Butler is back as the Man, and, while he starts off well, with laughs and a sense of the character as family man, when the action goes down he gets almost too intense. Think Jack Bauer of “24” (TV) without the tense lead-in to his actions. Butler’s Banning is downright brutal in this second one. While that brutality was tempered in Olympus Has Fallen (2013), here it’s set loose to run free. While all of his actions seemed to have a goal in the first film, here’s he seems to enjoy the brutality, and takes it to another level.

Aaron Eckhart, who made for a good President in the first, seems to have a bit of PTSD in this second film, and jumps on board with Butler’s new level of brutality. Sure, he casts a few wary glances towards Banning at first, but he succumbs quickly, and does his best to bring out his inner Two-Face (from The Dark Knight (2008)) during the battle sequences.

Morgan Freeman doesn’t get as much chance to shine as he did in the prior film, as there is less screen time focused on the Situation Room this time around. Angela Bassett turns in a decent performance, but her character is a bit more “damsel”-ish in this sequel, at one point giving way to panic. It doesn’t quite fit her character, as viewers will see her more as Angela Bassett from Strange Days (1995) rather than Angela Bassett from Stella Got Her Groove Back.

There are a slew of other familiar names in the film as well, although most of those get very few sequences to strut their stuff. From Radha Mitchell to Colin Salmon to Jackie Earle Haley, they are all basically backup to Eckhart and Butler. And news report voice overs flesh out most of the terrorist ideals, giving the villains very little to do as well.

Lots of critics have bashed London Has Fallen due to it’s foreign bad guy, and that doesn’t seem to make sense. Nowhere does the film state that all foreigners are bad (unlike a Presidential candidate we could name). In fact, the film, in just the first few sequences, describes why the bad guy is bad. It’s not based on the color of his skin or his religion. It’s based on the villain’s arm dealing, and his recent attempts at helping terrorists create chaos in order to sell more arms. That’s it. Maybe if he had been a white guy, then the critics would have been silenced – or maybe there would have been an uproar about how Hollywood is giving all the big roles to non-foreigners. Who knows?

Anyway, this is a movie based solely on revenge. America and her allies try to stop this arms dealer (ala 80’s Quadaffi style), and they fail. The arms dealer (who has lost someone in his family due to the attack) seeks revenge, and doesn’t care about collateral damage, and takes a cue from ISIS on how to extract that revenge. Simple.

That revenge, which has to up the ante from the original film, takes place in London, and, like your typical Roland Emmerich film, most of the recognizable real estate in London comes crashing down in a myriad of high explosives…and the film quickly narrows it’s focus to good ol’ Prez and his running buddy, Banning. The rest of the film centers around these two, and throws them through one action-packed sequence after another.

While this is similar to Olympus Has Fallen (2013), it seems almost silly for London Has Fallen. In one building (which the film does finally scamper back to), the one (or two) against many seems almost plausible. In all of London, it just doesn’t. And that’s where this film breaks down. With plot holes flying fast and furious (if a satellite is always watching the Prez, why can’t they communicate through that? Did the enemy intercept that too? Why is Colin Salmon, supposedly the man in charge, not get filled in when MI-6 discovers a mole? Why can Banning use the AK-47 to distinguish between good and bad cops, but other cops can’t?), it’s hard to stay tuned into the action. And, as Banning turns up the brutality, viewers may start shying away from the film.

For those that stick around, however, the action heats up again after that, as “the good guys” advance on the terrorists’ hidey hole. The action is intense, and worth waiting for – even if it’s rather typically one-sided. Then the film moves back into a building, and vibes of Olympus Has Fallen (2013) should resonate well with viewers. This time, however, there’s some familiar first-person shooter style sequences that should pull in gamers as well.

While it does kind of fall apart in the middle, and the plot holes are enormous, London Has Fallen isn’t fantastic. Sure, the dialogue could use some work (as f-bombs seem to be seeded throughout merely to add a bit of shock value), and Butler’s Banning does go a bit over-the-top, brutality-wise. But, like most action films of it’s genre, it keeps the pace going fast and furious from the start (albeit after a longer-than-expected build-up). There isn’t any more character development in this sequel (the filmmakers apparently thinking they got that out of the way in the first film), but fans of the first film should still enjoy this sequel. Like most sequels, it went bigger and bolder more because it could, not because it should.

London Has Fallen, with all it’s faults, is a decent action flick anyway. It keeps the viewer entertained, despite some utterly implausible moments, and does so by any means necessary. Unlike the first film, however, it doesn’t really bring any sensibility with it. With Fuqua behind the original, it came across as almost a nostalgic nod to it’s 80’s action flick predecessors. This time around, it’s a bit too brash and harsh for it’s own good. Still, it’s not bad, there’s just nothing that really sets it apart from any other action thriller aside from it’s plethora of recognizable actors. And that’s kinda too bad all by itself.

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