By Chaz Lipp
Morgan Freeman made headlines recently by admitting that sometimes he takes film roles just for the paycheck. No coincidence he’s also promoting London Has Fallen. This by-the-numbers thriller, a sequel to Olympus Has Fallen (2013), wastes not only Freeman, but also his fellow returnees Robert Forster, Melissa Leo, Angela Bassett, Radha Mitchell, and series newbie Jackie Earle Haley. That’s a lot of acting talent sitting around with nothing to do. In Olympus, a North Korean terror organization shut down Washington D.C. Now it’s Middle Eastern terrorist mastermind Aamir Barkawi (Alon Moni Aboutboul) who stages a coup in London following the unexpected death of British Prime Minister. The world’s collective heads of state, including U.S. President Ben Asher (Aaron Eckhart), have assembled to pay their repsects when Barkawi attacks.
What it all boils down to is a semi-comic (both intentional and unintentional) buddy action flick, with super Secret Service agent Mike Banning (Gerard Butler) trying to usher President Asher to safety. Along the way, director Babak Najafi (taking over where Olympus‘ Antoine Fuqua left off) focuses solely on bloody kills, lots of gunfire and explosions, and wisecracks that often feel incongruous in the wake of so many world dignitaries falling victim. It all depends on how seriously you take this stuff. Turn off your logic center (and stop wondering how Barkawi supposedly replaced all British law enforcement officers with murderous imposters – and no one noticed), surge along with the car chases and helicopter crashes, and you just might have a good time.
Even, perhaps, a better time than the needlessly dull Olympus Has Fallen. Though it scored at the box office, Olympus was outdone in terms of visceral thrills by that same year’s White House Down, which featured wannabe-Secret Service agent Channing Tatum protecting President Jamie Foxx. For London, it seems director Najafi and company combined the silliness of that film with the basic 24 template (including lots of unnecessary title cards identifying all the U.S. military personnel and to-the-minute time checks). Of course in 24, we had two dozen hour-long episodes to set up all the plot twists and expand on the various characters’ relationships. Compressed into 99 minutes, there’s no room for nuance of any kind. The U.S. rules (just because), the Middle East is a breeding ground of terrorist scum – that’s the overall vibe in London Has Fallen. If you can handle that, grab some popcorn and enjoy the ride.
London Has Fallen Images: Gramercy Pictures; Lionsgate Films