London Has Fallen, the new Gerard Butler thriller, is a disaster movie plain and simple. It’s a movie with US president on the run, hundreds of stereotyped terrorists and little to no interesting dialogue – but who needs dialogue? Didn’t we just say it’s a disaster movie? Isn’t that what RedBox is for? I mean, why pay $14 to see London Has Falling in the theater when you can rent it on Redbox for a couple of bucks, right?
The film is the latest in the Olympus Has Fallen series that started with a story of Korean terrorists who brazenly take over the White House and show no remorse beating up White House staff or destroying national treasures in the process.
The film makers, as in the first installment, are attempting to cash in on a little rah-rah patriotism, hoping that will carry the day and make up the difference given the lack of character development or interest in the script. This is a disaster film that is in need of its own rescue team.
London Has Fallen starts with a drone bombing a Pakistani compound owned by a sell-to-the-highest-bidding-crackpot arms dealer, while his daughter is getting married. Intel says the arms dealer is there, but fails to make mention of innocent bystanders. Who survives, but the now vengeful arms dealer and his ruthless sons. The daughter, we find out later, was killed on her wedding day.
Of course, there’s nothing like a high-priced arsenal in the spare room when you need it. The family strikes back two years later strike by murdering the prime minister of Britain and attacking all the world leaders – from Japan, Italy, Germany, France and Canada, specifically – as they gather in London for the funeral. The only world leader to survive is Benjamin Asher, the U.S. president played by Aaron Eckhart, who escapes with only his No. 1 Secret Service body guard Mike Banning (Butler). This gives them the flexibility to dash around town on foot or in borrowed vehicles when a chase scene is called for.
But it doesn’t help much that Butler’s lines are invariably just another way for him to throw a punch. When found, a small platoon is up against 100 well fortified terrorists holed up in a building in London, and told that his odds of survival are thin, Banning barks defiantly, “Well, they should have brought more men.” When he ruthlessly kills a terrorist with a knife-twisting in front of the president – with the dying man on the phone so his fellow terrorists could hear his agony — President Asher asks, “Was that really necessary?” Banning gives him a one word answer and a smile and a shrug. “No,” he says.
But it isn’t the non-stop debacle that dilutes the impact of every punch and unimpressive comment from Banning, it’s the lack of emotional ties to the carnage that’s confronting the audience. The opening, of course, right after the Pakistani compound is bombed, is a view of the president and Banning jovially jogging alongside shiny, black SUVs in Washington, trading little jokes as favorite Secret Service agents always do with U.S. presidents.
These three jokes have to serve as character background and must carry their emotional portent through the rest of the movie. In other words, that’s about it when it comes to warm and fuzzy. These guys are pals – how nice for them. Now, right on time, the script tosses in the point that Banning’s wife is pregnant, which prompts him to write a two-sentence resignation letter. He is, needless to say, halfway through typing that up when the British Prime Minister dies, forcing him to go on one last mission.
Movie review survey Web site Rotten Tomatoes noted that London Has Fallen has received 28 percent positive reviews, which should put it on a fast track toward Red Box, where it should be avoided by all but the most desperate movie fans who have already seen the rest of he offerings first.