London Has Fallen

I was thinking…

…sequels always present a challenge. The writers, filmmakers and even the actors have to somehow capture the feel and look of the original film and the personality of the characters without simply copying the predecessor. Even more difficult is coming up with a plot and story as good as the first one when the first one was usually the best thing the writers could come up with from the start.

With their sequel to 2013’s Olympus Has Fallen, the makers of London Has Fallen had their hands full trying to avoid the sequel pitfall. Fortunately, as the first film was a far-fetched, relatively mindless shoot-em-up to begin with, they did not do too badly.

Two years after a drone strike on a Pakistani black market arms dealer’s home, the British Prime Minister suddenly passes away under suspicious circumstances.

Invited to the funeral, various heads of state, including the President of the United States (Aaron Eckhart–The Dark Knight), need to arrange security in less than a day as they travel to London for the services. Secret Service agent Michael Banning (Gerard ButlerGods of Egypt, 300), head of the president’s security, plans their trip down to the last detail.

Before the funeral can even take place, havoc breaks out throughout London as police, Queen’s guards and civilians unleash a multi-pronged attack led by the same Pakistani arms dealer from the first scene.

Surviving the initial attack, the president and Banning engage in a thrilling cat-and-mouse chase across London as the terrorists attempt to kidnap the president with plans to execute him in a live-streaming worldwide event.

After the initial drone strike, London Has Fallen acts more like a suspense film for the next half hour. Very little happens except for a build-up of anxiety. This, of course, makes the introduction of the action that much more endorphan-tastic (I just coined that). Champing at the bit for nearly a third of the film for something to get rolling, we are then not given more than two minutes from then on to settle down.

Butler’s Banning makes for a likeable and rugged action hero–a welcome thing in today’s perfumed, metro-sexual Hollywood. Perhaps most delightful is that he does not simply shoot his way out of every situation. His use of a knife–particularly his sadistic use of it–endears him to me and should to every lover of action films.

Other than the somewhat obvious exposition provided by Vice President Trumbull (Morgan FreemanThe Dark Knight trilogy) and the slower paced first act, the film moves along at a steady speed, building momentum minute by minute until a wonderfully shot firefight down a London street and Banning’s infiltration of the terrorists’ lair.

Unfortunately, there are just as many flaws with the film as their are positives. Although peppered with the occasional good line, the script is liberally salted with poor ones. The thought, Really?! Those are your dying words?! definitely came to mind as I watched this.

At least one of the many, many special effects houses attached to this production should be barred from even working on films again as there were some awful moments of 1990’s level CGI. Note the helicopter crash in the trailer at roughly the 2:20 mark. The entire sequence looks even worse in the film.

Being an avid lover of action movies as I am, I am also perplexed at the poor choices made by the main characters. (Of course the Banning character does say that’s half of what he’s made of.) When Banning kills half a dozen terrorists in the London subway (or ‘tube,’ as they call it), does he load up on their weapons, arming himself and the president with as much as they can carry? Well, according to the next shot–nope.

And the entire London snafu takes place because a terrorist was not confirmed dead to begin with. As a matter of fact, every single one of the bad people in the arms dealer’s family who were meant to be killed by the drone strike managed to survive. This begs the question: when it absolutely, positively has to be destroyed, why drop only one bomb?

Although it is inundated with dubious scenarios, the far-fetched concept seems to be closer and closer-fetched (if that’s a thing) with each passing year. After all, how many crazy people managed to get onto White House property since Olympus Has Fallen was released?

Quite predictable and loaded down with several action flick cliches, London Has Fallen still shines where it is meant to: in shooting and stabbing. And that’s what we go to action films for in the first place.

Ammo Dump rating: 6 out of 10 bullets

I’ll talk more about this film and others during my radio show (a new regular time will be forthcoming). Listen in on WJBC-AM1230 in Central Illinois. For the rest of the world, listen on WJBC.com. And don’t forget to follow me on Twitter @ALphaEXray.

London Has Fallen
Rated R
Run time: 99 minutes

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