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Thursday, March 10, 2016

London Has Fallen 2016 * * Stars

London Has FallenDirector: Babak Najafi
Year: 2016
Rated R
Rating: * * Stars
Cast: Gerard Butler, Aaron Eckhart, Morgan Freeman

I believe Gerard Butler to be a good actor. I also believe that he makes bad choices in the roles he takes. Playing for Keeps, Movie 43, Gods of Egypt, Chasing Mavericks, Gamer. King Leonidas really needs to fire his agent (if he hasn't already). Gerard's latest is 2016's London Has Fallen (my newest write-up). It's an uber-sequel to the lousily excessive Olympus Has Fallen and only exists because that vehicle became a so-so to moderate hit. Whereas "Olympus" felt like the ultimate Die Hard rip-off, "London" feels like a remake of Invasion U.S.A. (1985). Whereas "Olympus" proclaimed Butler to be the poor man's Bruce Willis, "London" now has him conveying Chuck Norris. Bodies pile up, cardboard villains bite the territorial dust, London city landmarks are blown to smithereens, and countless rounds of ammunition are discharged. Oh look kids, there's Big Ben, and there's Parliament. Ha-ha.

Anyway, Olympus Has Fallen was directed by Antoine Fuqua. London Has Fallen passes the reins over to relative unknown, Babak Najafi. Najafi doesn't stray from Fuqua's previous vision. He keeps the proceedings fast and brainless, patchy and dippy. "London's" action scenes like in "Olympus", consist of gunfights promoting the look of a video game (Call of Duty comes to mind). There's nothing visceral here, just mounds of bullets and bad guys groaning briefly before they parish. As for the special effects shots, well they sort of look fake and cartoonish. It's as if a helicopter flew over the calm city of London, England (to shoot dailies) and then the CGI artists came in to add some sham, death and destruction. That sort of buffoonery worked with the Transformer movies. Here, it's obvious and kind of laughable.

Containing many, unnecessary insert titles, harboring a screenplay that took four writers to complete, and owning a strong cast for such a silly actioner (Morgan Freeman, Jackie Earle Haley, Angela Basset, Melissa Leo), London Has Fallen never makes any mention towards its predecessor from 2013. You could walk into it thinking everything was its own movie. The story is as follows: Secret Service agent Mike Banning (Gerard Butler) is about to be a father. He and his wife Leah (played by Radha Mitchell) are expecting a child in two weeks. At the same time, Banning is contemplating resigning from his job via protecting President Benjamin Asher (Aaron Eckhart). In the process of drafting his resignation letter, Mike finds out that a British Prime Minister has died prompting him to accompany said President to London for a state funeral. All the world leaders show up there too but for some reason, a terrorist organization wants to kill all of them (quickly) and then capture President Asher for means of a public execution (YouTube here it comes). With "London", I've never seen automatic weapons fired so quickly and so hastily in a feature film. Again, this harks back to my video game perception stated earlier.

Now as mentioned in the first paragraph, I don't think of Gerard Butler as being bad at acting. I do however, feel that registering as an action hero is not quite his forte. Despite plugging tons of bad guys and even dispatching them in the style of Michael Myers (same knife too), he lacks the wit of a 90's Bruce Willis, the accent and one-liners of an Arnold Schwarzenegger, and the overall coolness of one Liam Neeson. Yeah he looks manly but resorts to grimacing at the camera, subjugating an impractical one man army persona, and spouting plenty of F-bombs. You end up rooting for his character the way you would root for action monger Jason Statham (that can't be good). Bottom line: With a dilettante slickness and an evaporating running time (99 non-epic minutes), London Has Fallen isn't the worst action movie to date. It does though, register just above a rental. My rating: 2 stars.

Of note: There's a sequence in "London" where a chopper crashes after being shot down. In that chopper is President Asher (Eckhart), Secret Service director Lynn Jacobs (Angela Basset), Butler's Mike Banning, and I guess two pilots. Who do you think survives without any internal injuries and almost no bruising? That's right, the Prez and his protective badass in Banning. Oh Hollywood, you never disappoint.

Written by Jesse Burleson

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