Monday, March 7, 2016

London Has Fallen

2.5/4

Starring: Gerard Butler, Aaron Eckhart, Morgan Freeman, Alon Aboutboul, Waleed Zuaiter

Rated R for Strong Violence and Language Throughout

"Olympus Has Fallen" was not a very good movie, but it was an efficient one.  It made enough money to warrant a sequel.  Then again, that's not much of an accomplishment considering Hollywood's obsession with them.  It was a genre flick straight out of the 90's: a high-concept thriller that sold adrenaline at the expense of brainpower.  The problem was not that the story was unbelievable (that's to be expected), but that it was lame.  The new installment has a story that is simultaneously more ludicrous and more entertaining.

After his adventure in the attempted White House takeover, Mike Banning (Butler) is still the favorite Secret Service agent of President Benjamin Asher (Eckhart).  However, with the incoming arrival a new baby (his wife is once again played by the enormously talented Radha Mitchell, although she's stuck saying good-bye and crying at the TV), Mike has decided to retire.  But before that can happen, tragedy strikes: the Prime Minister of the UK has suddenly died, and all the world leaders are coming for the funeral.  Of course, it all turns out to be a trap, with terrorists impersonating cops and bombs blowing up everywhere.  Hundreds are dead, and after a failed escape attempt, Mike and Asher are stuck on the ground trying to stay alive long enough for get out.

It's totally preposterous, but that's okay.  Most action films are.  The good ones, however, do their best to hide it, or failing that, provide enough adrenaline that we don't notice.  Or care.  Director Babak Najafi is counting on the latter.  But the screenplay is so weak and the story so implausible that we do notice.  I must add though, that Najafi taps into our real fear of terrorism.  Whether or not that's in good taste is debatable.

Friendly Gerard Butler does what he does best: kick ass and take names.  He doesn't have the physique of Arnold or Sly, but he makes up for that in talent and charisma.  The role doesn't tax his limited abilities too much, but sometimes he growls his lines to the point where it's hard to understand what he's saying.  Aaron Eckhart once again plays the hostage (or something like that), and he does an effective job.  He also gets to do some gunfighting, which for a president is kind of odd, but hey, Harrison Ford did the same in "Air Force One."  The villains are adequate, but forgettable once the end credits roll.

The action scenes are effectively choreographed, but Najafi is definitely no John Woo (who should direct the sequel, if there is one).  Or Michael Bay.  They quickened my pulse a little from time to time, but not to the point where I don't have reservations about recommending seeing it in the theater.  On Blu Ray or Netflix is a different matter.

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