I went into “London Has Fallen” looking for a big, dumb action movie. I like big, dumb action movies. What I don’t like are stupid action movies, and “London Has Fallen” right into that bargain bin.
Three years after the end of “Olympus Has Fallen”, the UK Prime Minister dies suddenly and President Asher (Aaron Eckhart) travels to London for the funeral along with other world leaders. But it is an elaborate trap laid by international arms dealer Aamir Barkawi (Alon Aboutboul) who holds the President responsible for a drone strike which killed his daughter. Only Secret Service Agent Mike Banning (Gerard Butler) stands between the President of the United States and public execution at the hands of the terrorists who have seized London.
Now if that sounds like the intro cut scene for a video game, that’s probably not a coincidence. The film is very definitely not a ‘video game brought to life’ but it does feel like it was written by a nihilistic thirteen-year-old hopped up on energy drinks and “Call of Duty”. The abysmal script is crammed with nonsensical, testosterone-driven bombast that would be looking at a hefty rewrite to even reach the lofty heights of cliché.
When director Babak Najafi isn’t busy intercutting appallingly mismatched low resolution stock footage of London to support the film’s laughable understanding of the real geography of London, he’s applying really poor special effects to the rest of the footage to inject some sense of threat to this noisy and pointless runaround. From digital blood spatters galore to the big, Emmerich-esque set piece moments of landmark destruction, the effects work is desperately poor as are many of the crowd scenes where terrified onlookers are often outnumbered by nonchalant passers-by.
Deficient in logic, spectacle and artistry, “London Has Fallen” is at its worst when it comes to characterisation. Butler’s Mike Bannon has apparently in the intervening years become something of a psychopath. There’s a disquieting gleeful ferocity and savagery to our square-jawed hero’s killing that should give even the most hawkish among us pause for thought. Reflecting the film’s flimsy ethical stance, Butler’s bloodlust often makes it difficult to know who you should really be rooting for. This time, Eckhart’s President is in on the action from the very beginning but then he plays a Leader of the Free World so seemingly indestructible that you start to wonder why he even needs a protection detail in the first place. Morgan Freeman is also in this and should just be ashamed.
Aggressively stupid, willfully ignorant, deeply racist and driven by a corrupted, rotten sense of false moral superiority, “London Has Fallen” may feel like a straight-to-video sequel to a popular movie – like we used to get in the 1990’s – but it’s much more unpleasant than that.