London Has Fallen is objectively a trash fire. It’s gleefully violent, front-to-back idiotic, desperately crummy-looking despite a reported budget of over one-hundred million, and politically reprehensible. You’d be forgiven for wondering if it’s a secret parody, formally indistinguishable from the real thing and otherwise so slightly exaggerated that you might not notice. Don’t worry, it’s not, but its mercenary commitment to insidious cheap thrills, occasional bursts of probably-accidental artistry, and absurd, wonderful lead performance render it genuinely exciting, resembling nothing so much as garbage ’80s classics from Cannon Films like Invasion U.S.A. or Death Wish III. Gerard Butler is Secret Service agent Mike Banning—previously a disgraced warrior yearning for redemption in Olympus Has Fallen, now head of President Aaron Eckhart’s security detail. When a literal army of terrorists ambushes the entire city of London and most of the West’s leaders, Banning is left to defend the POTUS on his own, at which point he instantly transforms into an invincible wisecracking death machine.
London Has Fallen is objectively a trash fire.
Banning is the sort of action protagonist we haven’t seen in decades, a man who delights in creatively slaughtering his enemies; he yanks a knife out of one bad guy’s head then uses it to repeatedly shank another, before chugging a tall glass of water, bug-eyed, and shouting, “I dunno about you but I’m thirsty as fuck!” Director Babak Najani has seemingly crafted a killer DTV movie that somehow escaped to theaters. Not that he’s on the level of blu-ray auteurs like Isaac Florentine or John Hyams—we’re still safely in the realm of eight cuts for an exploding car. But like the film’s hero, Najani takes an obvious delight in the display of violence, especially in a ridiculous/awesome CG-assisted faux-long take action sequence, wherein Banning charges down an alley surrounded by apparently hundreds of soon-to-be-dead terrorists like a smirking spectre of doom. The politics here are more ludicrously awful, a clueless justification of the West’s mortal fear of Arab men and the supreme righteousness of destructive power no matter what the collateral cost. It’s truly ugly yet all of a piece with the film’s embrace of every dumbass trope—which also makes it the best kind of junk food. London Has Fallen is aimed at the reptile brain, not even remotely nourishing… But pure guilt sometimes can taste so good.