London Has Fallen (2016)

London Has Fallen may be unrelated to your worst case Brexit fears, but it’s still a bit of a nightmare and not just because the city gets blown to CGI bits. When the good guywhen the guy you’re supposed to be rooting for…when Gerard Butler barks to the son of a Pakistani terrorist, “Why don’t you boys pack up your shit and go back to Fuckanistan or wherever you’re from,” you know you’ve descended into some jingoistic hell hole. The righteous American fantasy (of a certain sort) is bombastic, aggressive, unafraid to shove its bloodletting in your face, but when the day has been won, the catharsis only comes for some, namely those who agree with Secret Service agent Mike Banning (Butler) that “everyone is a terrorist asshole until proven otherwise.” He operates by the maxim, you can never be too careful so might as well shoot them all.

Then again, Banning might just be trying to prove his mettle after events in the previous film, which saw him regain his place in President Benjamin Asher’s (Aaron Eckhart) security detail following a bout of White House heroics. That’s damn weak justification for such wanton bloodlust. He and Asher are in London for the prime minister’s funeral, a ruse by said terrorist, Aamir Barkawi (Alon Moni Aboutboul), to take out American-aligned heads of state and to avenge the murder of his family. During the initial attack, Banning shoots everything in sight, out of an abundance of precaution one assumes since the security apparatus has been infiltrated from top to bottom. The closer the two get to Barkawi, however, the more Banning the American zealot is fueled by xenophobic rage, killing literally because he can.

The film delights in carnage as a spectator sport. London is turned into a gladiatorial arena, its streets and underground cleared out to showcase all sorts of murderous combat and the players displaying an impressive array of shooting and stabbing skills. When in doubt, director Babak Najafi errs on the side of death. He wastes no opportunity to spill blood, whether it’s a blade through one’s spine or the beheading of motorcyclist or the ever efficient shot to the head.

These sequences contrast with the staid central command units on either side of the Atlantic. The head of the Metropolitan Police (Colin Salmon) and the director of MI5 (Patrick Kennedy) get a little more running around to do but manage to come off as incompetent tools all the while. In Washington, however, the vice president (Morgan Freeman) and the joint security team (Robert Forster and Melissa Leo) are reduced to a state of near helplessness. I don’t know why Freeman and company bothered returning for the sequel given how little they have to do in this film. Their scenes are restricted to the four dark walls that make up the situation room, and their only acting direction is to gawp at one another for hours on end.

There are a few touches that take the edge off somewhat. Angela Bassett once again plays the Secret Service director, who is rightly skeptical of this whole trip and seems to be the one person who can bring down Banning’s temperature. Her role is limited but at least it’s purposeful, unlike Radha Mitchell’s thankless part as Banning’s pregnant, very worried wife. Their presence makes little difference in the overall though. London Has Fallen is what it sets out to be, an angry, reductive, flag-waving celebration of American exceptionalism. I already feel like I need to atone for watching it.

Released: 2016
Prod: Gerard Butler, Alan Siegel, Mark Gill, John Thompson, Matt O’Toole, Les Weldon
Dir: Babak Najafi
Writer: Creighton Rothenberger, Katrin Benedikt, Christian Gudegast, Chad St. John
Cast: Gerard Butler, Aaron Eckhart, Morgan Freeman, Alon Moni Aboutboul, Angela Bassett, Robert Forster, Jackie Earle Haley, Melissa Leo, Radha Mitchell, Sean O’Bryan, Waleed Zuaiter, Mehdi Dehbi, Colin Salmon, Patrick Kennedy, Clarkson Guy Williams
Time: 99 min
Lang: English
Country: United States
Reviewed: 2019