Film Review: London Has Fallen (MA15+) (USA, 2016)

American nationalism is back on-screen once again in full display in the action sequel to Olympus Has Fallen. On a minor note, Gerard Butler, Aaron Eckhart, Morgan Freeman, Angela Bassett and others from the previous film are back as well. But seriously, the first film, by director Antoine Fuqua of Training Day fame, was a surprise success at the box office, especially when compared to its more expensive and sleeker competitor, White House Down, by disaster-porn purveyor Roland Emmerich of Independence Day fame. Many thought it was due to the huge disappointment of A Good Day to Die Hard (aka Die Hard 5) and since Olympus Has Fallen had many comparisons to Die Hard, it was seen as the film A Good Day to Die Hard should have been. And now we have London Has Fallen, an inferior yet entertaining sequel that still carries the throwback vibe the first film has and has some other surprises too.

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Gerard Butler reprises his role as knife enthusiast/secret agent Mike Banning, who is still on the guard for President/buddy-buddy Benjamin Asher (Aaron Eckhart). Mike is contemplating about quitting the Secret Service to spend more time with his pregnant wife, Leah (Radha Mitchell) and to prepare for parenthood. Mike and Asher are informed that the British Prime Minister has died. Along with Secret Service Director Lynne Jacobs (Angela Bassett), they are to attend the funeral alongside other world leaders and their security teams. But just when things are going according to plan, a catastrophic terror attack occurs and kills many innocent people, leaving Mike to protect Asher from the vengeful Aamir Bakawi (Alon Moni Aboutboul), the arms dealer/terrorist leader behind the attack.

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First off, if you are offended by any sign of xenophobia, racism and political incorrectness, punch out now. The film is filled to the gills with such moments, that it comes off as propagandistic. What is also present from the first film is the laughably bad CGI. The helicopters, the explosions, the scenes of destruction; they are all a hoot to watch because they are so badly executed. But then again, this was also present in the first film; all the flaws above can be seen as positives with the right frame of mind. Films like Commando, Invasion USA and others were sloppy pieces of film-making but they were genuine in their intent to entertain and they do well in that regard and London Has Fallen is reminiscent of those types of films. If you are expecting a sloppy 80/90’s action throwback like the Schwarzenegger/Stallone/Willis/Norris days of yore, then you will enjoy this movie.

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The actors certainly add to the fun factor. Gerard Butler looks like he is having the time of his life, taking his role serious enough in terms of drama and action while relishing in the silliness of the film. The same goes for Aaron Eckhart, but what is surprising is the fact that they made the two actors go for a buddy comedy-vibe and it really works due to their excellent chemistry. Also a surprise is the higher focus of self-awareness that adds to the entertainment that pays off with some great one-liners. Morgan Freeman, while having less screen-time than the previous film, adds more credibility to the film than necessary. Matter of fact, the entire supporting cast, which consists of Robert Forster, Melissa Leo, Charlotte Riley, Jackie Earle Haley and others, adds credibility to the point that it is amusing that they are actually appearing in a film like this.

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As for the action, director Babak Najafi does acceptably well, with some jarring editing problems; particularly in the car chase scene, but the hand-to-hand combat scenes work well and the gun-play is thrilling, especially in the climax where Najafi utilizes long takes that gives off a Call of Duty feel. But what is a letdown is that the villains are not as menacing as they could have been, particularly in comparison to Rick Yune’s performance as the villain in the previous film. Alon Moni Aboutboul does what he can to make the audience take his reasoning for the character’s attack seriously but there is nothing more than that.

So while the politics in the film are highly questionable and the film-making is more than flawed in addition to the cheesy moments (there’s a scene that involves the Presidential Oath, similar to Melissa Leo‘s scene in the first film) the self-awareness, the committed cast and the entertaining action make London Has Fallen an entertaining time at the movies. By the way, you’ll definitely want to get a glass of water afterwards.

Review Score: THREE STARS (OUT OF FIVE)

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Harris Dang

Rotten Tomatoes-approved Film Critic. Also known as that handsome Asian guy you see in the cinema with a mask on.

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