London Has Fallen
“Olympus Has Fallen” was a wildly preposterous but extremely well-done action-thriller about North Korean terrorists taking over the White House, foiled by a gritty lawman straight out of the John McClane mold. The sequel is even more ridiculous, and returns Gerard Butler as the Secret Service agent who mows through brown people while offering taunts and one-liners.
“Olympus” director Antoine Fuqua, a master at tense action scenes, abandoned ship to direct the boxing movie “Southpaw” instead. So Iranian director Babak Najafi takes over, best known for “Easy Money II: Hard to Kill,” which tells you how well he’s known.
The result is a reasonably engaging flick that carries itself with energy once the action gets going. The setup and occasional talkie scenes are DOA, though.
Butler is Mike Banning, a disgraced agent who failed to rescue the First Lady years earlier but redeemed himself by saving the life of President Benjamin Asher during the Korean assault. He’s played by Aaron Eckhart, who rocks a skinny suit even better than the real POTUS (though the Anderson Cooper haircut they gave him deserves a veto).
His role is essentially damsel in distress, who occasionally gets tough enough to get the hero out of a tight spot.
As the story opens, Banning is back in the good graces as Asher’s pet agent, taking daily jogs around the White House grounds together that escalate into races, which Banning always wins because he’s nobody’s punk, you punk. Banning’s got a baby on the way and is ready to quit the presidential detail for the quiet life, but then disaster strikes again to underline his True Purpose in Life.
The British Prime Minster has died suddenly following an operation, so world leaders gather to pay tribute. It’s all a trap, years in the making by Aamir Barkawi (Alon Aboutboul), a Pakistani arms dealer and terrorism supporter who’s righteously upset about Western forces killing his daughter in a drone bombing.
The elaborateness of the attack is impressive, with virtually every nook and cranny of the U.K. police force, emergency responders and anti-terrorism forces infiltrated with assassins. Most of the presidents and prime ministers are wiped out within minutes, though Banning and his Secret Service boss (Angela Bassett) manage to get Asher away.
The story is all chase-chase, in which Banning and Asher are pursued in cars, helicopters and on foot, then a second chase-chase in which they go on an unlikely offensive. Waleed Zuaiter plays Barkawi’s son, Kamran, who’s running things on the ground while daddy titters at the Vice President (Morgan Freeman) via video from the homeland.
To really get under Kamran’s skin, Banning mispronounces his name as “Cameron,” which is really a low blow.
Banning’s M.O. is to sneer at his enemies, which causes them to go crazy, throwing all their assembled forces his way, which … does not seem like a very good strategy for protecting a president.
The action scenes are chaotic and gripping, and Banning’s death toll is somewhere in the high dozens at least. He gets shot or stabbed from time to time, but shakes it off like any man’s man who runs on “bourbon and poor choices.”
If the last movie was slightly jingoistic, this one ratchets the rhetoric up to near Trump-ian territory. Banning brags to a guy whose neck he’s about to snap that America is bigger than any one man, and we’ll still be here a thousand years from now, yada yada, which would be more convincing if it weren’t coming from a Scottish actor laboring through contorted vowels to sound like a Yank.
“You hear that?” he growls over a radio to the bad guy, slowly slipping his knife deeper into a terrorist as he screams. “That’s the sound of your brother dying.”
“Was that really necessary?” Asher asks afterward. You could say the same about this whole film.