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London Has Fallen – Review


Release Date: 4 March 2016 [USA]
Director: Babak Najafi
Writer: Creighton Rothenberger - Katrin Benedikt - Christian Gudegast - Chad St. John [Screenplay] - Creighton Rothenberger - Katrin Benedikt [Story] Creighton Rothenberger - Katrin Benedikt [Based On Characters By]
Cast: Gerard Butler - Aaron Eckhart - Morgan Freeman



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Posted March 10, 2016 by

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London Has Fallen Review:

The most honest moment in Babak Najafi’s jaw-droppingly-moronic London Has Fallen comes at the very end, after all the knives have finished slicing and the guns have finished firing and the bombs are done exploding. It comes during the credits, and you have to look fast to see it. Down toward the bottom of the cast list, a few names before the end, comes a character called “Bad Guy.” I didn’t catch the actor’s name, and it doesn’t appear on IMDB, but it was there. And that generic label is about as honest as this would-be action thriller ever gets, because this is the most generic of all possible shoot-em-ups.

The main cast – Gerard Butler as Secret Service Superman Mike Banning, Aaron Eckhart as fit and funny President Ben Asher, and Morgan Freeman as now VP Allan Trumbull – have been reassembled from the 2013 modest hit Olympus Has Fallen, and presumably paid a boatload of money to go through the motions again. But whereas Olympus, directed by Antoine Fuqua, was somewhat of a stylish guilty pleasure, London Has Fallen offers little pleasure, guilty or innocent. There is one funny line. About eight minutes in, after a standard action opening, Banning is discussing the in-progress nursery he is building for his new baby. His wife objects to the six surveillance cameras he has installed and Mike explains that they were all gifts from his colleagues in the Secret Service. That’s it. You can go home after that.

If you don’t, you will be treated to the most unbelievable of tall tales. Apparently, every single person in London has been replaced by mercenaries sympathetic to a vengeful gun runner named Aamir Barkawi who has been plotting revenge on the West for a couple of years. So, that makes it a rather simple matter to use a state funeral as an opportunity to slaughter all the world’s leaders while the half dozen or so true Brits stand around and wring their hands. (Hint – there was a plant on the inside who helped with the plot.)

But these bloodthirsty, heavily armed, remorseless killers weren’t counting on Mike Banning, a single brawny American (or Scotsman – Butler’s accent is a sometimes thing) with a gun and a can-do attitude. He and President Asher will survive a helicopter crash and a devastating car crash, and continue to run from and kill a city full of bad guys. Most of their battles are simply boring, several are lifted out of video games, and by the end, Mike has to resort to the tried and true movie cliché of simply outrunning all the bullets. Through it all, as has become common in such claptrap, the tough Yank almost never misses while the amoral thugs, who have presumably spent a good part of their lives training for this mission, prove too incompetent to even take Mike out when he lies dazed and trapped inside an upended auto after being hit by a truck.

Normally, I would have a “It’s awful, but…” to throw in here, but I just can’t find one. None of the characters rise above the stock level. The recent thriller Triple 9 may have had some plot problems and some thinly drawn characters, but it also had in the person of actors like Anthony Mackie, Clifton Collins, Jr. and Norman Reedus, a large group of interesting people to look at. London can’t even make its bad guys intriguing, and that’s really saying something. It blows its supposed surprise twist about the plant by simply not giving a crap about it. It has the Vice President addressing the nation at the end, even though the President is home safe and sound, presumably because we just all want to hear Morgan Freeman speak, goddamnit.

Normally, I’d be done now. 600 words is about 550 too many to spend on this. But there’s something else that needs to be said about London Had Fallen and this type of movie in general. It is dangerous. It is dangerous because it presents a terribly unrealistic portrait of the types of threats that may one day challenge the free world, and it offers the most banal of solutions. Since 9/11, America has had to face the reality of danger in the world, and a number of movies have offered complex depictions of the crucial issue. Zero Dark Thirty is the first that comes to mind, but I’m sure you have seen others. London Has Fallen turns it all into a cartoon. I was half expecting to see Donald Trump show up in the end to pat Mike Banning on the back and shoot himself a couple of foreigners. Donald is one of the by-products of this type of oversimplification. Had he really shown up, then that moment would have replaced generic “Bad Guy” credit as the most honest in the movie.


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Jonathan Eig
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