Film Review: London Has Fallen

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No one asked for a sequel to Olympus Has Fallen, in fact most who saw it remember it as Roland Emmerich’s White House Down, but here’s a second outing for Gerard Butler’s McClane-like secret service agent anyway. In the original film, though you won’t remember, he was called to President Aaron Eckhart’s aid when North Korean terrorists invaded the heart of America’s democracy. The resulting Die Hardery was a modest hit for mid-budget minnows, Millennium Films, so-called because they never spend more than a thousand dollars on visual effects.

In the follow up, Eckhart’s called to the British capital to attend the funeral of the Prime Minister who’s died suddenly. Protocol dictates that every head of state on Earth should go, with no time to make proper arrangements, regardless of the security implications, because the PM was presumably well-liked and Westminster Abbey has a lot of seats. But the event is a terrorist trap, a turkey shoot masterminded by a Pakistani arms trader keen to avenge the death of his daughter and the obliteration of a family wedding by an American drone. Butler, who has a baby on the way, so the stakes couldn’t be more obvious or mawkishly manipulative, is therefore sucked into a firefight that spans the capital; a battle in which everyone who isn’t him is destined to be killed or seriously injured.

London Has Fallen is an action movie without wit, intelligence or polish. Farmed out to cost cutting VFX houses in Romania and Bulgaria, the movie’s setpieces are rendered with great fidelity to ‘90s computer technology. Watch open mouthed as conspicuous pixel-built explosions rock Trafalgar Square, Parliament and Chelsea Bridge; the kind of budget rush job that every amateur would-be practioner with a home computer will curse as inferior to the work they could have done themselves with time and application.

If the visuals feel retrograde, the script is far worse. Babak Najafi’s movie has more than a sniff of Luc Besson syndrome, i.e. a screenplay written in the scribes’ second language, deaf to the nuance and cliché pitfalls of English dialogue. There’s a distinctly Eastern European feel to said ejaculations, as though the entire enterprise was forged from the broken mould of thirty year old American action movies. Every word from Butler’s mouth is a standby, as though he were being operated by Chuck Norris. In fact, Millennium could claim to be Cannon Films natural successors, except they’re not that good.

Fans of b-movie brutality and testosteronic idiocy will enjoy Butler’s second adventure, but unlike 25 years ago, when the likes of Steven Seagal was peddling this stuff to undiscerning audiences, London Has Fallen enters the fray in a far less forgiving environment. When the likes of 24 and Homeland have done this sort of thing far better on TV, with less money, Najafi’s action fart has the feel of a reproduction of an antique brought down from the loft and presented uncleaned. Please Gerard, no more.

Directed by: Babak Najafi

Country: US/Romania/Bulgaria

Year: 2016

Running Time: 99 mins

Certificate: 15 for Morgan Freeman's vacant stare, Angela Bassett doing nothing, and talk of "known landmarks".

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