Three years ago, Gerard Butler starred in Olympus Has Fallen, a competent R-rated movie with a pedestrian script and balls-to-the-walls action. Its sequel, London Has Fallen, is all of that, just dumber.
The British Prime Minister has died of apparent natural causes and all the world leaders are set to attend his state funeral in London. This includes U.S. President Asher (Aaron Eckhart) who is, of course, protected by his one-man death machine, Secret Service Agent Mike Banning (Butler). Banning is about to have a child with his wife, Leah (Radha Mitchell), and is “seriously” considering resigning from the Secret Service. That is put on hold, though, with the emergency trip to London. As soon as the world leaders arrive, the trap is sprung and the plan of weapons dealer Aamir Barkawi (Alon Aboutboul) goes into effect. Barkawi is seeking revenge for the death of his daughter, who was killed in a drone strike at her wedding, but we learn later that the U.S. didn’t believe innocents would be killed…at a wedding. Okay. Anyway, most of the world leaders are killed in a plan so perfect, the Joker and Ra’s al Ghul would have applauded it. Naturally, Asher survives the attack and Banning has to fight to keep him alive and out of Barkawi’s clutches as his men overrun the entire city of London. In the U.S., Vice President Trumbull (Morgan Freeman) takes control in both hunting Barkawi down and trying to help Asher and Banning. Can Banning save President Asher? Does he keep a running tally of all the guys he gleefully kills? Is there a government or police force more inept than London’s?
Okay, so while the action is well done—if not over the top—and I like Gerard Butler as an action hero, London Has Fallen is just too colossally stupid for me to take it seriously. Olympus Has Fallen was a bit more color-by-numbers in its approach, trying to bring back R-rated action films like we enjoyed in the 80s. However, London Has Fallen decides to turn the stupidity factor to 11 along with the action. I mentioned Ra’s al Ghul earlier for a reason—Barkawi’s complete infiltration of the London police and even the Queen’s Guard is even more total than Ra’s al Ghul’s infiltration of the Gotham infrastructure in Batman Begins. It’s beyond unbelievable. So, while I enjoyed the action, my eyes practically rolled out of my head at the sheer ludicrousness of the plot.
Let’s talk about Butler’s character for a moment. Banning is an unstoppable killing machine—literally, he comes across more like a video game character than a real person in this film—and he revels in it. I don’t mind heroes that take lives, but it should affect them one way or the other. He’s worse than Jack Bauer and I like Jack Bauer.
If London Has Fallen has one thing going for it, it’s the cast. However, many of the recognizable names here are wasted in parts that are way too small. Now, I will give the producers credit for bringing most if not all of the cast members back from Olympus Has Fallen. It created a nice little continuity that you don’t normally see in throwaway action films like this, but it’s really distracting when actors like Robert Forster and Melissa Leo are little more than window dressing. Butler is a natural as Banning. As I said in my review for Olympus Has Fallen, I like Butler a lot, but he just has been cast in a lot of garbage. Eckhart is another actor I like a lot who has kind of fallen off the face of the Earth after his breakout in The Dark Knight. He’s fine as Asher, kind of in the vein of Harrison Ford’s tough guy president from Air Force One. Angela Bassett is good in the few scenes she’s in as Banning’s boss, Lynne, but Morgan Freeman’s role is a bit of a headscratcher. He’s playing the Vice President, but comes across almost like a detective as he pieces everything together in the Situation Room. I liked Charlotte Riley quite a bit as Banning’s MI6 ally, but I wish we had seen more of her. She has a really good scene at the end.
Overall, if you’re looking for just some dumb action, then London Has Fallen may be your thing. Me personally? I was cackling throughout at how stupid and over the top it was. It IS entertaining, though. Just leave your brain at the door.