London Has Fallen review by Mark McPherson - Cinema Paradiso
When Olympus Has Fallen was released in 2013, many critics and audiences hailed it as a version of Die Hard taken to the White House. With its over-the-top displays of Gerard Butler becoming a one-man army as Korean terrorists take the president hostage, there was something about its unapologetic nature of patriotism-fueled action that made it as exciting as watching Bruce Willis scale a tower. But, similar to Die Hard’s franchise progression, the sequel London Has Fallen attempts to capture lightning in a bottle with a new setting and the same game. After trying to save Aaron Eckhart from terrorists inside the White House, he has to save him from terrorists in the streets of London. Terrorists sure do love taking a whack at the president in this movie world.
Most of what this script does is repeat Olympus Has Fallen with minor changes. Namely, instead of Korean terrorists targeting POTUS, we have Islamist extremists donning the guns and rocket launchers. It may seem inappropriate the way the movies picks such a target during an age of exceedingly violent ISIS and the frothing Islamophobia that comes with it, but that’s how it plays into the red-blooded patriotism. It’s the type of picture that feeds the radical right so hard with rage and machismo that it will garner a standing ovation by the time the villain bites the dust. This type of shlock could be seen as fearfully offensive and maybe even propaganda to those who strive against violence in a time where there is so much. With progressives condemning the picture and conservatives praising it, I find myself in the middle laughing at the spectacle of it all.
I wanted to have the same level of cornball entertainment with London Has Fallen, but found myself struggling to get in the mood. The lightning is not back in the bottle for this sequel. Exact scenes are ripped from the original movie with slight altercations. There’s a frantic gun battle on the steps of a government building, but this time with a slightly higher body count. A large, phallic monument is destroyed, but this time it’s Big Ben. There’s a battle in the skies as helicopters are taken down by rocket launchers, but there may have been an extra helicopter this time around. It was at least partially hilarious when one pilot sacrifices himself by steering his helicopter into a missile so that it won’t hit the president’s copter. The fact that the pilot has enough time to actually receive the order, acknowledge it and move his copter into a blocking formation is just so unintentionally comical.
The destruction has been doubled as Big Ben bursts into flames and bridges of London literally fall down. Great - there goes my action movie script entitled “London Bridge is Falling Down.” There’s no cheesy line from either the villain or our hero relating to these events which is rather surprising. The film is so bombastic in tone it might as well crack some terrible jokes to go along with terribly cliché dialogue. Then again, the Has Fallen franchise seems to be a more earnest version of G.I. Joe in staging silly action to appear more earnestly serious.
Even the acting is ridiculously amped up to seem bigger and better for Olympus Has Fallen 2: Fall Harder. Gerard Butler lets his accent slip out more often and Aaron Eckhart has been reduced to a growling dog of a president. Eckhart just seems so angry in this role the way he grits his teeth when forced to speak on camera before his execution. I half-expected him to pick up a gun at some point and deliver the final blow to the terrorist leader. But poor Morgan Freeman is still stuck behind a conference room table as the eyes and ears for our heroes. They could have at least given him a chance to fly one of the drones that attack the terrorist base. It sounds stupid on paper, but, then again, just look at the movie we’re talking about here.
London Has Fallen may be a different setting, but it’s the same old maneuvers. Terrorists try to kill the president, secret service action man fights said terrorists, explosions occur and America prevails. Overly patriotic and laughably dumb action movies can be a lark, but it’s not exactly a script template that has me coming back for seconds. As with the overlong Taken franchise, the pattern really makes you question if Eckhart’s character is a good president if terrorists groups are this eager to pick him off. You think they’d be content with essentially turning London into a warzone and blowing up their monuments. The mind reels at how crazy the next group of vile international villains will be in taking him down. My guess: they’ll blow up the moon - “The Moon Has Fallen.”