Ah…remember back in 2013, when the grim, dark Olympus Has Fallen was a box office bomb, while the similarly-themed but far more entertaining White House Down was a huge hit? Wait, no: Olympus Has Fallen was the hit, and White House Down was inexplicably the bomb. And now, instead of a follow-up with Channing Tatum kicking ass in a tank top, we get Gerard Butler aggressively beating people up and muttering wildly xenophobic things. Given the level of support the leading candidate for one political party has in this country, maybe this is what we deserve.
London Has Fallen follows Secret Service agent Mike Banning (Butler) through the streets of London as he attempts to protect President Benjamin Asher (Aaron Eckhart), following a massively orchestrated terrorist plot intended to kill the leaders of the G8 nations during a state funeral. Somehow, an arms dealer with a vendetta against the nations responsible for a drone attack that killed his daughter on her wedding day has managed to secretly enlist people to serve as police officers and emergency providers in London.
While the country of the terrorist and his organization is never explicitly stated, it’s clear that it doesn’t matter. Not when you have Banning saying things like, “Go back to Fuckheadistan,” or Vice President Allan Trumbull (Morgan Freeman) beginning a speech asking whether America should be held to higher standards – before dismissing the idea as ludicrous. (And with this, we learn that not even Morgan Freeman’s Voice can make everything sound appealing.) The film’s political position essentially falls to “America is great, and everyone else is a total loser.”
Even if the film’s politics don’t bother some audiences, though, the action should. It’s as brutal as its predecessor, but with a lack of visual coherence that made parts of Olympus Has Fallen at least tolerable. Most of the film is basically set up to have Banning go into action, with Asher close by either trying not to get injured or contributing to the violence with an action or two (to Banning’s 50), with the occasional break to other characters in London or Washington trying to figure out what’s going on.
Those breaks, somehow, are filled with a ridiculous amount of star power for scenes that mainly involve talking for a few minutes – cumulatively. Aside from Freeman, they include Melissa Leo, Jackie Earle Haley and Robert Forster. It’s a stacked cast in what amounts to a slew of cameos. Only Angela Bassett gets anything resembling substance with her turn as the Director of the Secret Service, but even that is cut short.
Oh. And because every “hero” needs some motivation, Banning’s wife Leah (Radha Mitchell) is pregnant and close to her due date, which gives Banning reason to consider retiring from the Service. Take a guess how that plays out.
Ultimately, London Has Fallen is a incoherent attempt at an action film with xenophobic writing that comes across as something that couldn’t and shouldn’t be popular today. At the very least, shouldn’t. Maybe we had this coming, though.