Sunday, March 6, 2016

Review: London Has Fallen

I do not own the above image.  Copyright Gramercy Pictures. All Rights Reserved.

            Mike Banning (Butler) is back as the lead Secret Service Agent for President Benjamin Asher (Eckhart).  Banning, with a wife at home & baby on the way, wants to resign from his post.  Those plans change as the British Prime Minister has died under mysterious circumstances.  Banning, Asher & Secret Service Director Lynne Jacobs (Bassett) head to London with the world’s other major heads of state for the funeral.  Then all hell breaks loose.
            As some of my long-time readers may remember, I didn’t like Antoine Fuqua’s 2013 predecessor OLYMPUS HAS FALLEN.  Well, Fuqua’s gone & Iranian-Swedish director Babak Najafi is in the director’s chair.  And he actually extracts most of the energy the original had.  A bulk of the initial action sequence features generic helicopter shots of London landmarks being blown up with some of the worst CGI special effects I’ve ever seen. To spend money to sit in a theatre and watch Parliament & Westminster Abbey be destroyed by sub-Sharknado effects is insulting.  The eight (at least) different special effects companies who worked on this movie could have used mismatched Legos as the exploding buildings or helicopters and it would have looked more realistic.
            The screenplay is even worse.  Written by OHF writers Creighton Rothenberger & Katrin Benedict and Christian Gudegast (A Man Apart) and Chad St. John (first feature credit), LHF depends solely on the audience being completely fine with extreme coincidences & the main villain not being on the same continent as the action.  So many basic questions that should not be asked in a movie like this.  First & foremost, why was the Prime Minister’s funeral scheduled before the autopsy results released?  Suspicious deaths don’t happen in this universe apparently.  How did the villain know the Japanese PM would be stuck in traffic on London Bridge?  Or that the Italian PM would take his mistress on a self-guided tour of Westminster Abbey minutes before the funeral?  Or that the French PM would sit on his boat for an extra 10 minutes?  Or that the US President would escape his assassination attempt & would lead a car chase down through London, which would require dozens of faceless, black motorbike drivers?  Or that his attack would cause Londoners to immediately barricade themselves in their homes instead of panicking in the streets?
            The main villain is supposed to be Aamir Barkawi, an illegal arms dealer who is the target of a drone strike that kills his daughter on her wedding day & severely injures his son & other associates in the first scene.  Barkawi then spends the remainder of the movie in an apartment in a random Middle East city in front of a laptop where he taunts the Vice President & Cabinet a few times.  In his place are his son & associate, who also sit behind laptops until the opportune moment to kidnap the President so he can fulfill the family’s ultimate goal: to kill the President live on the internet & force the world to watch.  That’s one lofty goal, isn’t it?  The entire movie is that simple & uncomplicated.
            Butler & Eckhart do their best to brighten the festivities with some witty banter but there’s too little of it & they have no chemistry because Gerard Butler is actually a wooden plank who was magically transformed into a real man.  It also doesn’t help that Najafi doesn’t care if the actors mumble their lines or if the bullets hitting the ground cause the dialogue to be intelligible.  The target audience won’t care.  Just keep blowing stuff up and they’ll be happy.
            There is one element of LHF that sort of works: the opening action scene of the third act is this long take of a long corridor where Butler has his way with everyone who tries to kill him.  That was fun.  The rest of LONDON HAS FALLEN is a jumbled mess of bad everything: direction, writing, acting, special effects & ticket buying.  LHF should be the shining example of what happens when the general movie-going audience goes to see a bad movie in droves enough to warrant a sequel.  They got what they wanted & we suffer.  Thanks for nothing!


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