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Director: Babak Najafi
Writers: Creighton Rothenberger (screenplay), Katrin Benedikt (screenplay)
Stars: Gerard Butler, Aaron Eckhart, Morgan Freeman, Charolette Riley, Angella Bassett
A sequel to the 2013 action thriller Olympus Has Fallen, featuring most of the original cast, London Has Fallen picks up where the first ended with John McClane fill-in Mike Banning (Gerard Butler) again leading the charge to save the free world. In the first movie, it was Koreans who inexplicably took control of the most secure building in the world. The mix of heavy drama and over-the-top violence amid a simply absurd story was hard to swallow, let alone enjoy, despite some good performances and a few well-executed set pieces. The problem was that it couldn’t convince in its attempt at authenticity and worse, took itself far too seriously.
The same goes for London Has Fallen, which somehow manages to be even more ridiculous. The film begins with Banning naturally looking to retire as his pregnant wife is about to deliver their first child. Taking his duty seriously, he travels with President Benjamin Asher (Aaron Eckhart) to London anyway. As the leaders congregate for the ceremony, an explosive series of devastating attacks erupt across the British capital. It destroys many of the city’s most famous landmarks while eliminating a number of assembled leaders and hundreds (or thousands) of innocent citizens. Banning manages to keep Asher alive, even when the helicopter they are fleeing in is shot out of the sky, miraculously not exploding like the two escorts flying beside it.
Behind all the violence and the legions of terrorists initiating the attack, is Aamir Barkawi (Alon Aboutboul), a Middle Eastern terrorist who Vice President Trumbull (Morgan Freeman) claims has “killed more people than the plague” (even though he’s only number 6 on the most wanted list). He’s looking for revenge after a drone strike hit the wrong target a few years ago that killed his daughter at her wedding. His plan is to kill Asher by any means necessary, either in the original attack or, when it turns out he survived it, to be captured and executed via the internet so the entire world can see. Meanwhile, MI6 agent Jacquelin Marshall (Charolette Riley) works behind the scenes to uncover the mole who betrayed the security secrets to allow the attack in the first place.
Directed by Babak Najafi, the problem with London Has Fallen is that it doesn’t try to innovate. It doesn’t even learn from its original, taking Banning, who at least had some sense of vulnerability in the first, now transforming into a demi-god with inhuman survivability and super-soldier prowess. We never once have any concern for him and Asher’s life, the two being excuses only for more random gunfire attacks and lots of explody things. The sheer dullness of the presentation, the total lack of any creativity or attempt to even humanizing the action or the characters makes it nothing but a numbing experience. This is compounded by streams of inane dialog that is so textbook action jargon, it begs the question of how this film could possibly have six writers credited to the screenplay. Seemingly generated from an action hero 80s one-liner app (and someone really should get on that), Banning especially is a virtual bottomless well of eye-rolling quips that consistently make this feel less like a plausible story and more like a bad video game adaptation. Maybe that was the point.
What’s worse is the film’s mean spirit. It’s a common theme in movies lately that can be done right, but here is just repulsive. Violence for violence sake never works. If we don’t care about the people or situation, we don’t care about the action. All the blood and gore and shooting and stabbing will mean nothing if it’s just there to exist. It’s not that it’s cartoonish. It is not. The deaths are realistic and graphic, but churned out at such a numbing rate, followed by lead-filled one-liners, it just gets boring. It’s fish in a barrel. Furthermore, the producers were obviously trying hard to secure an R-rating. The profanity flies, and while the situation merits the language, it feels annoyingly forced as characters let rip F-bombs in the most awkward places. And honestly, how many of these President-in-peril movies must we watch where we spend a large portion of the film in some sequestered war room where the Vice President and staff of military heads sit behind a big table with rolled-up sleeves listening to a villain dole out their demands all while staring at a wall of screens nervously wondering if the Commander-in-Chief is still alive? Probably many more.
London Has Fallen is a poor sequel to an already dismal original. Fans of the first, hoping to see the same mindless action might not be disappointed, but it is sure to be a letdown for anyone hoping for something gritty and more authentic. Better to go watch Die Hard one more time and be reminded of how it’s done right.