This will come as a surprise to absolutely no one, but there aren't any shades of grey in London has Fallen; not an ounce of nuance anywhere. A sequel to 2013's surprise action hit, Olympus has Fallen, the film is an action-packed bloodbath more jingoistic than the last. The bad guys are more plainly evil than ever, and America unquestionably on the side of what's right. But those turning up to watch Gerard Butler mow down scores of foreign terrorists didn't pay for subtlety, anyway, so why fix what clearly hasn't been blown up?
With prior director Antoine Fuqua having moved on to detonate stuff elsewhere, the directing duties fall on Swedish helmer Babak Najafi (Easy Money 2), who adds a few flourishes to the steady barrage of bullets and broken bodies. Undeniably a throwback to the action movies of the '80s (Why hasn't John McTiernan directed one of these yet?), London has Fallen sees the bad guys stepping up their game, moving on from blowing up the White House to destroying all of London. Butler is back as Secret Service agent Mike Banning, but now he's facing a threat bigger than another terrorist attack: fatherhood. Banning and his wife (Radha Mitchell, relegated to the sidelines again) are expecting their first child (Banning demands a bulletproof crib, naturally) and he intends to retire from active duty for a job much safer. Naturally, he doesn't get the chance when chummy President Benjamin Asher (Aaron Eckhart) is called to London to attend a funeral for the British Prime Minister, who died suddenly. Think it goes smoothly? Then maybe a tutorial on "Action Movies 101" is in order, because of course it doesn't.
For a film that somehow has four writers credited, much isn't put up for debate. The story actually begins a couple of years earlier as arms dealer Aamir Barkawi (Alon Moni Aboutboul) is the target of a U.S.-sanctioned drone strike. The attack doesn't kill him, but it kills his family and friends who were attending his daughter's wedding. Was this attack justified in any way? You think London has Fallen takes time to debate the morality of such things? Barkawi is a bad guy, that's enough. Years later, Barkawi gets his revenge big time as the funeral is a perfectly orchestrated trap. Even the Queen's guard are in on the plot, brandishing assault weapons and killing the German chancellor right on the street. Explosions decimate London's greatest landmarks as other world leaders in attendance are picked off with ease. The attack is devastating beyond description, the carnage incalculable; yet not quite on the level of the interminably long White House attack from the first movie.
Of course Banning manages to save the President's life, because ultimately he's an indestructible caveman, built on pure American swagger. Butler is much better suited to roles like this, delivering snappy one-liners full of four-letter words and dripping with sarcasm, than any of the terrible romantic comedies he's attempted over the years. Whatever one thinks of Butler, when he's savagely sending his foreign foes to "Fuckhead-istan" it's hard not to hoot for the ass-kicking he's delivering, all in the name of keeping America safe. The film gathers one of the year's best ensembles, Morgan Freeman, Angela Bassett, Melissa Leo, Jackie Earle Haley, and Robert Forster, to sit around in a command center doing an awful lot of nothing. The same goes for new addition Charlotte Riley as an MI-6 agent Banning turns to for help. At first it seems she's going to be a welcome dose of estrogen-fueled badassery, but ultimately she's forgotten for long stretches as Banning racks up an epic body count.
Yeah, it's simplistic, politically incorrect, and more than a little dumb if thought about too much (or even a little), but these kinds of action movies are like a window into a time when this genre was Hollywood's most popular. Things have changed considerably since then. London has Fallen will undoubtedly offend some with its archaic politics and blatant stereotypes, but it's hard not to smile when Banning, in full Schwarzenegger mode, yells "Get to the chopper"! Those who get the reference are who the film is meant for, and if they're lucky London won't be the last place that has fallen and needs saving.
Rating: 3 out of 5