London Has Fallen is an uninspired sequel to Olympus Has Fallen, but has some of its predecessor’s cheesy action movie throwback charm.
London Has Fallen picks up an unspecified amount of time after the events of Olympus Has Fallen, with Mike Banning (Gerard Butler) now serving as the Secret Service agent in charge of the Presidential Protection Division for U.S. President Benjamin Asher (Aaron Eckhart) and former Speaker of the House Allan Trumbull (Morgan Freeman) now serving as the Vice President. Mike, unbeknownst to President Asher, is planning to retire from the Secret Service and lead a different career now that he and his wife Leah (Radha Mitchell) are about to become parents. Mike is forced to put those plans on hold when the British Prime Minister suddenly dies and several leaders from around the globe – Asher included – must quickly travel to London to attend the funeral.
While extra security measures and precautions are taken to protect the leaders of the free world at the event, it turns out that the Prime Minister’s death was the first step in a master plan orchestrated by one of the FBI’s most wanted arms dealers/terrorists in the world, Aarmir Barkawi (Alon Moni Aboutboul). Soon London is plunged into chaos and it’s up to Mike to get Asher out of the city and to safety – before Barkawi succeeds at carrying out his dastardly plan in full.
London Has Fallen, like Olympus Has Fallen, harkens back to the kind of mainstream Hollywood action genre fare that was fashionable in the 1990s – and like many action movie sequels that were made during the ’90s, London attempts to outdo its predecessor by embracing the “bigger is better” motto. Screenwriting duo Katrin Benedikt and Creighton Rothenberger double-down on the cheesy one-liners and old-school action film tropes they used in their Olympus Has Fallen screenplay, while their fellow London Has Fallen screenwriters Christian Gudegast (A Man Apart) and Chad St. John (The Punisher: Dirty Laundry) help to further up the ante in terms of brutal death scenes and violence featured in the movie. The final result is a film that’s certainly “bigger” than its predecessor (in terms of its scale, quips, and R-Rated mayhem), but also an example of diminishing returns – when it comes to fun and the throwback charm of the first chapter.
Whereas Olympic Has Fallen provided Butler’s Mike Banning with a simple, yet effective, redemptive arc that served the purposes of the film, the character is comparatively flat in London Has Fallen – presented as less of a rugged, yet fallible, modern-day cowboy and more of a two-dimensional “good guy” who becomes a near-invincible killing machine once the action kicks in. London aims to get around that issue by following the example of the better Die Hard sequels and making Banning part of a buddy duo with Eckhart’s Benjamin Asher (to bring out their personalities); unfortunately, the dynamic between the pair isn’t engaging enough to carry the film through its non-action driven scenes (which, to be fair, there aren’t that many of). Moreover, whereas Olympus found ways to give certain supporting characters their own moments to shine during the action – in particular Melissa Leo as the U.S. Secretary of Defense Ruth McMillan – the way London shifts its focus squarely onto Banning and Asher leaves the rest of the ensemble with little to do but watch the plot – its predictable twists and half-baked story beats alike – unfold from afar… literally, in some ways.
Director Babak Najafi (Easy Money II: Hard to Kill) succeeds in keeping the pedal to the metal throughout the majority of London Has Fallen‘s running time, in the process delivering all the mindless thrills that fans of Olympus Has Fallen would expect from the sequel. However, whereas Olympus was a noticeably well-crafted B-movie (thanks to solid direction from Antoine Fuqua) and largely unfolded as an effective single-setting thrill ride, London both looks and feels like a cheaper retread that goes too big – clumsily stringing together its set pieces with underwhelming CGI (depicting noteworthy London landmarks being destroyed), creating a half-realized vision of London as a war zone. It doesn’t help that a good chunk of that action takes place either in darkened interiors and/or at night, giving rise to muddled visuals that detract from (rather than enhance) the film’s many hard-hitting close-quarter combat sequences. The short of it: whereas Olympus looks like a ‘9os movie that is more polished and has better production values too, London looks like… well, a ’90s action movie (and not in a good way).
Butler and Eckhart, as mentioned before, don’t make for a particularly entertaining buddy duo to watch in London Has Fallen; though, the pair do rise to the physical demands of their roles. Butler in particular gets put through the wringer in stunts and physical action, and he handles the task well enough throughout many an action sequence… even if his subsequent one-liners are pretty hit or miss. Meanwhile, returning players Angela Bassett and Radha Mitchell – as Secret Service head Lynne Jacobs and Banning’s pregnant wife Leah – are fine in their roles, even if their characters are included in the Olympus Has Fallen sequel for little reason beyond providing motivation for Butler and Banning – which, to be fair, was also mostly the case in Olympus. However, Charlotte Riley (Edge of Tomorrow) as Jacquelin Marshall, the British MI6 agent who helps Banning and Asher stay alive, as well as her subplot in London Has Fallen, is far less important to the overarching narrative than the official synopsis for the film might lead you to believe.
London Has Fallen‘s main villain is the terrorist Aamir Barkawi – as played by Alon Moni Aboutboul (The Dark Knight Rises) – and the character feels very much like a two-dimensional Middle Eastern terrorist stereotype lifted straight out of a ’90s action movie… though not an especially memorable or even entertainingly over the top one. By comparison, Morgan Freeman appears to be enjoying himself in his hammy performance as the now-Vice President Trumbull, who gets to deliver more than his fair share of extra-cheesy reactions and grave lines of dialogue. There are other character actors among the film’s supporting cast who get limited screen time (like Jackie Earle Haley and Robert Forster), but likewise seem to be well aware of the kind of movie they’re in.
London Has Fallen is an uninspired sequel to Olympus Has Fallen, but has some of its predecessor’s cheesy action movie throwback charm. There’s enough in the way of mindless thrills and worthwhile B-movie entertainment to make the film worth a look for action junkies when it becomes available to watch at home, since the movie isn’t really worth a trip to the theater – given how much of the movie’s spectacle and set pieces have a ‘budget look’ on the big screen. While London Has Fallen does leave the door open for additional installments in this franchise (pending a successful turnout at the box office), the sequel doesn’t do a good enough job to suggest that Olympus Has Fallen should have become a franchise in the first place.
London Has Fallen is now playing in U.S. theaters. It is 99 minutes long and is Rated R for strong violence and language throughout.
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