London Has Fallen Review
Gerard Butler reprises his role as T-bone steak on legs, Mike Banning, in this concrete-headed sequel to 2013’s breakout hit Olympus Has Fallen. Banning and President Asher (Aaron Eckhart) arrive in London for the Prime Minister’s funeral when a massive terrorist plot to assassinate the world leaders erupts across the city. As the chaos unfolds, a news report helpfully informs us that the attack has decimated “most of London’s known landmarks” (as opposed to the unknown landmarks, I guess?)
Before said siege begins, things are actually looking up: there’s some flat but still amiable back-and-forth between Butler and Eckhart, Morgan Freeman looks genuinely happy to be there, and the stock archive footage used for establishing shots of the White House provides a little amusement. The instant shots are fired; the sickening slope to awfulness begins.
It’s not necessarily a requirement that a sequel repeating the format of its predecessor in a different location is a half-arsed cash-grab. Die Hard 2 did it with humour and finesse, but there’s little, nay, none of that here, despite itsy-bitsy references to McTiernan’s original: in Olympus, the deaths were so over-the-top with splatter that there was at least some unintentional laughter abound, but London Has Fallen opts instead for a cruel, witless body count.
Regardless of whether the gunplay takes place in broad daylight or derelict underground stations, it’s all incomprehensible, even in a lengthy tracking shot that is lifelessly digital in construction. The much-touted demolition of postcard icons is also a farce, reading like any other post-9/11 movie going through the motions, but with CG and green-screen compositing that wouldn’t look out of place on the SyFy channel.
Butler stomps through the commotion like a Call of Duty-playing bully who thinks swearing is both big and clever, and you can see Eckhart’s new conservatory reflected in his disinterested gaze. “Was that really necessary?” he asks, as Butler punctures the vital organs of yet another passing gunman. “Probably not”, his co-star admits, grinning sheepishly as if he’s been caught drizzling too much mustard on a hot dog.
Freeman is relegated to glum, monitor-fixated exposition and Alon Aboutboul is our villain of the week, Aamir Barkawi; an antagonist with an array of extraordinary, top-of-the-line terror technology at his fingertips, but whose Skype threats still sputter with post-production static (are his neighbours torrenting?)
Many have – quite understandably – taken the film to task for its xenophobia (Banning’s bellowed “Go back to f___headistan or wherever it is you’re from!” is but a footnote in its approach to diplomacy), but it’s so thuddingly inept in every conceivable area that to express outrage at inherent racism is bestowing underserved credit on a film that imagines the US president has never been taught how to use a gun.