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London Has Fallen

Platform(s): Movie
Genre: Action
Publisher: Gramercy Pictures
Release Date: March 4, 2016


Movie Review - 'London Has Fallen'

by Adam Pavlacka on March 5, 2016 @ 12:00 a.m. PST

After the British Prime Minister passes away under mysterious circumstances, all world leaders attend his funeral. What starts out as the most protected event on earth turns into a deadly plot to kill the world's most powerful leaders and unleash a terrifying vision of the future.

"Olympus Has Fallen" was a bombastic action flick that, while not particularly cerebral, offered up enough of a plot for the whole experience to be rather enjoyable. Down-and-out Secret Service agent Mike Banning (Gerard Butler) fought off a North Korean invasion and single-handedly saved the President (Aaron Eckhart). It was basically "Die Hard in the White House." Now, Butler and Eckhart are back in "London Has Fallen," which doesn't quite live up to the pedigree of its predecessor.

The film starts out well enough, with a British state funeral resulting in major world leaders converging on London. Of course, an evil Middle Eastern terrorist wants to kill them all as revenge for his attempted assassination via drone strike a few years back. The President and Banning escape, with the rest of the film being a chase through London with the bad guys hot on their tail.

Pacing was one of the stronger points in "Olympus Has Fallen," yet it's one of the weaker points here. "London Has Fallen" spends a good deal of time on setting up the locations of other world leaders — the French leader is on a boat, the Italian leader at the top of Westminster Abbey with his mistress, the German leader at Buckingham Palace, and so on — yet it only does so to show their demise a handful of minutes later. It all feels like wasted time as you're waiting for the good stuff to start.

Unfortunately, once the action does start, it doesn't get much better. "Olympus Has Fallen" worked because it balanced restraint with action. Not so much here. The first real action sequence we see is an extended car chase that quickly overstays its welcome due to the close-in camera work. There is no real sense of speed or movement; rather, we see a lot of bullets flying and people yelling. That's followed by a helicopter chase that may be realistic but ends up being rather boring on film. The bad guys are firing missiles, but there is no crazy flying or swinging around the side of a building just before a missile impacts. Nope. The choppers are just dropping flares.

Once the President and Banning are on foot, all semblance of plot is gone. The bad guys seem to have an unlimited number of troops that magically spawn as needed, while the British are completely MIA. And when I say the British are MIA, I mean all of London. The two Americans are running around, and no one is there. Civilians are hiding, there are no British troops, and all of London is just deserted.

There are some random encounters with the bad guys, all of which are solved through brute force rather than any sort of intelligent combat. For some strange reason, Banning is in complete overkill mode the entire time. He doesn't just eliminate the threat, he seems to be getting pleasure out of hurting them. It's borderline sociopathic. In a better constructed film, such a portrayal might be seen as a commentary on the amount of death and destruction in big-budget action movies, but here, it just feels pointless.

Things get even more absurd in the last act, which plays out as if it were a scripted mission from Call of Duty. The British SAS suddenly appear to assist Banning with an assault on the terrorist home base, but he's the only one that can make it in. Lots of jumping, shooting and killing occurs, but there is no substance to it. The only thought that came to mind was, "I wonder what kind of killstreak bonus he's going to get?"

Both Angela Bassett and Morgan Freeman reprise their roles from the original film, and both are completely wasted. It's not that they do a bad job, but the script doesn't give them anything to work with.

The best action movies work because there is palpable tension and a real sense of threat as both sides vie for dominance. "London Has Fallen" doesn't have any of that. There is no strategy and no attempt at maneuvering. There's just one lone Secret Service agent with God Mode active and an endless stream of brown bad guys.

"London Has Fallen" fumbles over its own heavy reliance on tropes and unlikely escapes. Individually, some of the action sequences are impressive, but as part of a larger whole, it all feels disjointed. Whereas "Olympus Has Fallen" was dumb fun, "London Has Fallen" is just dumb. On the plus side, "London Has Fallen" will make for a decent drinking game when it hits home video. Just try not to get too hammered while playing.

Score: 4.5/10

"Olympus Has Fallen" is rated R and has a running time of 1 hour and 39 minutes. It is showing in 2-D.

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