After thwarting the terrorist takeovers of both Washington, D.C. in Olympus Has Fallen and in London, in — naturally — London Has Fallen, legendary Secret Service agent Mike Banning (Gerard Butler) returns. And if the title here is meant to make any sense whatsoever, it’s Banning himself who has “fallen” — though he’s certainly anything but an angel. After two movies’ worth of dodging explosions, pummeling and stabbing henchman, and riddling the landscape with bullets, Banning is now just tired. His body is in constant pain, and so he takes too many pills. His poor wife misses him; maybe he ought to just settle down? Ha, don’t worry, an army of explosive drones interrupts any of those plans by attacking the president (Morgan Freeman, getting a promotion from Veep in London) and putting him into a coma, an act for which Banning is swiftly and inexplicably blamed. Now he’s on the run, with a shady Vice President (Tim Blake Nelson), a determined cop (Jada Pinkett-Smith), and a nefarious private security firm hot on his heels.
Whereas the previous installments in this deliciously lowbrow franchise have revolved around a serious case of jingoism and Banning’s truly nightmarish capacity for gleefully partaking in violence, Angel Has Fallen tries to humanize him. Who is this guy, really? What makes Mike Banning tick? Honestly, who cares?
Sounds good on paper. But whereas the previous installments in this deliciously lowbrow franchise have revolved around a serious case of jingoism and Banning’s truly nightmarish capacity for gleefully partaking in violence, Angel Has Fallen tries to humanize him. Who is this guy, really? What makes Mike Banning tick? Honestly, who cares? Granted, Gerry Butler might want a little more meat on the bones of a role he’s played three times now, but it can’t be allowed to come at the expense of London’s delighted nasty streak and grungy ’80s Cannon Group movie vibe. There might be some interest in psychoanalyzing a screen icon like James Bond or Ethan Hunt… but Mike Banning? The machine who eats bad guys? His single-mindedness is the only key to his character anyone’s asking for. Instead, we have to watch him team up with his estranged survivalist conspiracy-nut father (Nick Nolte, in a frustratingly reigned-in performance). The duo crawls, depressingly, toward a kind of Cat’s in the Cradle-ish emotional reconciliation — instead of just letting us see Nolte crush dudes’s throats with his bare hands, or something else equally gnarly and cool. At least director Ric Roman Waugh’s action is competent, by contemporary standards. There’s still an awful lot of rapid cutting and shaky handheld coverage, but there’s an impressive batch of bloody headshots, and massive explosions, and the whole thing wraps up with a poor-man’s Michael Mann tactical firefight in an empty office park. But ultimately, the only remarkable thing about Angel Has Fallen is how tame it is.