Review: ‘London Has Fallen’ is for angry conspiracy theorists, not so much for others
For those who like their terrorism-fighting extra Trump-y, the extended macho grunt called “London Has Fallen” might be required viewing for a portion of the blustery candidate’s followers. Ostensibly a sequel to “Olympus Has Fallen,” the White House siege movie of three years ago, this by-the-numbers slog, which returns stars Gerard Butler as Secret Service bad-ass Mike Banning and Aaron Eckhart as kidnap-prone U.S. President Asher, more accurately represents a geopolitical obliteration fantasy flushed from the mind of the angriest and dumbest and most conspiracy-minded among us.
When a drone strike wipes out an entire wedding party outside of Lahore, Pakistan, the world mourns. Just kidding! The idea was to take out notorious arms dealer Aamir Barkawi (Alon Moni Aboutboul), a gray-suited villain who says lines like “Vengeance must always be profound and absolute” as if he were selling imported vodka.
Barkawi survived, though, and two years later, the payback is, well, elaborate. When the British prime minister croaks, dozens of world honchos descend on England’s capital for the funeral, leading to a montage roll call of visiting dignitaries and British and American characters so chunky you want to issue a congestion charge.
Banning’s shrewd decision to show up early, though, saves President Asher when coordinated bombs and guns go off across London, killing a handful of leaders — sorry, Japan, Canada, Germany and France — and turning the city into a terrorist stronghold, with their sights on the U.S. leader. After a car chase and a copter crash, Banning and the president are on their own, while the war room gang back home — including the vice president (Morgan Freeman) and Defense secretary (Melissa Leo) — watch monitors in terror as they realize Barkawi is still alive.
“London Has Fallen,” credited to four screenwriters, hews to a reactionary playbook in which warriors with weapons win while those in power are stupid. Freeman’s veep: “He’s probably been planning this for years!” (Duh: Do you not follow up on the ramifications of killing bad guys’ families?) President Asher, stating the obvious about the massive breach in U.K. security: “There’s got to be somebody on the inside!”
As for the action, director Babak Najafi shows voguish impatience with such details as shootout coherence and clean-looking CGI explosions but loves some close-up stabbing. (The killings sound like a game of Clue: “Butler with the knife in [any room].”) The star, meanwhile, relishes his protect-and-shiv duties, playing Banning like a foul-mouthed trainer on a ‘roid bender.
It’s not unamusing, but the emotional padding — the pregnant, worried wife (Radha Mitchell) back home, wondering if he should retire — is patently superfluous. So too, sadly, is Angela Bassett as Butler’s boss, as underused as an Academy Award-nominated actor has ever been. (Never mind the Oscar-winning window dressing of Freeman and Leo.) Even Eckhart’s granite jaw is better served in this movie than Bassett.
As long as there are enemies in Islamic lands, we’ll probably have to endure risible time-wasters like “London Has Fallen,” designed to justify blinkered foreign policy attitudes and stoke jokey hatred. It’s notable that the montage of visiting leaders doesn’t include one from a Middle Eastern country. But that would probably complicate things for the intended audience who need their good guys and bad guys suitably color-coded.
‘London Has Fallen’
Running time: 1 hour, 39 minutes
MPAA rating: R, for strong violence and language throughout
Playing: In general release
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