Movie Review: London Has Fallen

(l to r) Charlotte Riley, Gerard Butler, Aaron Eckhart in "London Has Fallen" Credit: Gramercy Pictures

(l to r) Charlotte Riley, Gerard Butler, Aaron Eckhart in “London Has Fallen,” a Gramercy Pictures release. Credit: Gramercy Pictures

In the often mundane world of sequels, prequels and reboots, what’s the read on London Has Fallen?

By Kimberly Gadette (doddleNEWS)

First came March 2013’s uninspired Olympus Has Fallen. Now, in March 2016, we get the wan sequel London Has Fallen. Maybe things will look up with a final chapter. Let’s call it Face Has Fallen.

Since none of this secret service agent/president buddy pic is particularly memorable, here’s a Fallen refresher: Three years ago, we were treated to an uninventive actioner starring Gerard Butler as the loyal protector to Aaron Eckhart’s stalwart U.S. president. Iconic monuments blow up, President Asher is kidnapped by terrorists, and an unrelenting surplus of bullets fly. Title: Olympus Has Fallen.

What didn’t fall was the box office, with the $70m film grossing $161m worldwide. Hence, the moneymen at the studios had nothing to lose by delivering an even more uninventive actioner starring the same cast in a similar story. Iconic monuments blow up, President Asher is kidnapped by terrorists, and an unrelenting surplus of bullets fly. Title: London Has Fallen.

Here, after Britain’s prime minister has unexpectedly died, heads of state travel to the funeral to pay their respects. But the funeral is abruptly cancelled due to the demise of five world leaders and citywide destruction. It appears that London bridges are indeed falling down. And who carried out such a dastardly deed? None other than a vengeful Pakistani arms dealer, still nursing a two-year-old grudge after the U.S. had, oops, inadvertently detonated his family instead of him. Payback is indeed a bitch.

(l to r) Angela Bassett, Aaron Eckhart, Gerard Butler in "London Has Fallen" Credit: Gramercy Pictures

(l to r) Angela Bassett, Aaron Eckhart, Gerard Butler in “London Has Fallen.” Credit: Gramercy Pictures

The terrorists may have Eckhart’s President Asher in their crosshairs, but they didn’t count on the fact that Butler’s Secret Service Agent Mike Banning is the president’s plus-one. And no one messes with Magic Mike.

Other than the first word of the movie, the release date and the story’s location change from the U.S. to the UK, there are a few differences worth noting. Such as the fact that while the initial film was directed by the well-respected Antoine Fuqua, he passed on this sequel and, after a few rounds of keep-away, the directing duties landed at the feet of little-known Babak Najafi. And while the credited writers for Olympus consisted of a manageable two, London is littered with four. (Generally, the more writers that are credited, the less notable the screenplay. Think of it as “second opinion syndrome”: the patient, or script, is riddled with disease. Since the first doctor can’t find a cure, multiple script doctors all throw in their two cents. Oh, those hefty doctor bills: maybe that’s why the budget for London Has Fallen cost $35m more than its predecessor.)

Unfortunately at the end of this UK day, the script is woefully flat. The dialogue is beyond predictable and, like a wedding toast delivered by a drunken uncle, the jokes are sodden and old. Such as when Agent Mike tells President Asher to hide in a closet while Mike takes on an army of bad guys. But when Mike suddenly finds himself on the wrong end of an armament, the president appears to lend a hand and take a shot. Mike reacts with: “I was wondering when you were going to come out of the closet.” Seriously? This is the best that the writers could do?

Perhaps to compensate for the drab dialogue, the filmmakers have bestowed Agent Mike with physical talents bordering on the superhuman. Not only can he singlehandedly vanquish hordes of marauders, but his sense of direction is impeccable. (Perhaps the Marvel Universe may want to recruit Mike as “GPS Man.”) Consider the scene when Mike gives the president specific driving directions (e.g., “turn left,” “go to the end of the alley, turn right” and “don’t run over the Queen”) as they hurtle through the underbelly of London’s darkest, dankest alleyways … even though we can assume that Mike’s never taken this exceptionally circuitous route to an M16 safe house before. And later, when he breaks into a 3-story, terrorist-populated building, he knows his way around every nook, cranny and power source as if this stronghold were his childhood home.

Gerard Butler in "London Has Fallen." Credit: Gramercy Pictures.

Gerard Butler in “London Has Fallen.” Credit: Gramercy Pictures.

Butler’s Mike is the iconic hero: tough, resourceful and unbeatable. Sure, he’s got a soft spot for his wife and baby on the way, and an unshakeable loyalty to the president, but that’s all we get. As for the president, Eckhart plays him with an iron-jawed immovability. He jogs (don’t most movie presidents?) and, in one short scene, he gives Mike a few pointers on how to be a daddy. End of story. It’s as if the writers, after hearing that there should be some character exploration, decided to throw us a bone. Not even a bone. More like a splinter.

The supporting cast can’t quite be considered “supporting.” Rather, Melissa Leo, Jackie Earle Haley and Robert Forester are relegated to supernumerary status, assigned minuscule screen time and minimal lines. Though it’s always nice to see strong actors collect a paycheck, their characters don’t further the plot … unless the concept of looking concerned adds an extra dimension.

As for the expected action thriller suspense, this movie is woefully lacking. There’s never a time when we worry that things won’t turn out well for our side. London Has Fallen is much too jingoistic for that.

Discounting the above, if your cup of British tea includes watching models of iconic UK monuments blow up, and viewing exhaustively long firepower exchanges akin to a video game, then London Has Fallen was made just for you.

For everyone else, since London has already fallen … why bother to visit?

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Rating on a scale of 5 tourist traps: 2

Release date: March 4, 2016
Directed by: Babak Najafi
Screenplay by: Creighton Rothenberger & Katrin Benedikt and Christian Gudegast and Chad St. John
Cast: Gerard Butler, Aaron Eckhart, Morgan Freeman, Alon Moni Aboutboul, Angela Bassett, Robert Forster, Jackie Earle Haley, Melissa Leo, Radha Mitchell
Running Time: 99 minutes
Rating: R

Here’s the trailer:

About Kimberly Gadette

Film critic Kimberly Gadette, born and raised in movie-centric L.A., believes celluloid may very well be a part of her DNA. Having received her BA and MFA from UCLA's School of Theater, Film & Television, she spent many of her formative years as an actress (film, tv, commercials, stage) before she literally changed perspective, finding a whole new POV from the other side of the camera. You can find her last 500+ reviews on Rotten Tomatoes (www.rottentomatoes.com/critic/kimberly-gadette/). Other than taking the occasional side trip to Cannes or Sundance, you can find her at the movies ... sitting in the dark as usual.

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