I don’t care what anyone says; Olympus Has Fallen is an awesome action movie, warts and all. It may be outrageous, egregious, preposterous, but it’s still a damn exciting, all guns blazing, all balls baring popcorn thrill ride that deserves its nickname, “Die Hard in the White House.” Die Hard, by the way, is in my opinion the best action movie of all time.
And so I ignored the naysayers and forked out my money on the sequel, London Has Fallen, notwithstanding its 25% rating on Rotten Tomatoes and 28% score on Metacritic. I’m telling ya, there are people out there like me who enjoy these kind of stupid movies, or else they wouldn’t have made a sequel for US$60 million. Oh, and for those who say White House Down was better, where’s the sequel for that?
Okay, first the bad news. London Has Fallen treks perilously close to the edge. There will no doubt be people offended by this movie, and I don’t doubt there are those who call it racist, xenophobic and fear-mongering. It doesn’t take anyone’s feelings into consideration for the sake of cheap entertainment, nor does it apologise for having the fall to kill hundreds, perhaps thousands of innocent people, including major world leaders.
Secondly, if you thought the first film was ridiculous, then you are in for a real treat. London Has Fallen takes the insanity to a whole new level, and there are no words I can conjure up from my shitty vocabulary that can do it justice. Suffice it to say it won’t be winning any awards for realism, adherence to gravity, and lack of plot holes.
Thirdly, the special effects, I’m afraid to say, aren’t first class. There’s no shortage of destruction and explosions in this film, though a good chunk of it looks too fake for a movie made in 2016. I’m not talking Sharknado territory, but for a moderate Hollywood budget it’s a little on the weak side. While I can let some of the architectural collapses slide, the billows of black smoke are obviously CGI. Hey, at least they’re eco-friendly.
Now that I’ve gotten the negatives out of the way, I’m going to come out and admit that I also enjoyed this sequel a lot. It’s actually refreshing to see an action film these days that doesn’t give a crap what anyone thinks, that doesn’t bow down to political correctness or sensitivities of the modern world. While it goes contrary to my personal feelings on terrorism (to be fair, it does touch the surface of the complexities on the subject but remains unapologetically Team America), I applaud how it doesn’t let such considerations get in the way of delivering some of the most batshit crazy action I’ve ever witnessed on the big screen.
The premise is delicious: the British Prime Minister carks it, prompting leaders from around the world to congregate in London for the funeral. And what’d ya know, terrorists unleash absolute mayhem on the city, hell bent on revenge against the US President (Aaron Eckhart). The only man who can save him? Of course, the dude who did it last time, Mike Banning (Gerard Butler), a one-man wrecking crew who is basically Jack Bauer, Jason Bourne, Liam Neeson and King Leonidas all rolled into one.
Returning to reprise their roles include Morgan Freeman as the US Vice-President, Radha Mitchell as Banning’s poor wife, Angela Bassett as the director of the US Secret Service, Robert Forster as the head of the Joint Chief of Staff, and Melissa Leo as the Secretary of Defense. That’s a heavy duty lineup right there, and I haven’t even mentioned the welcome additions of Jackie Earle Haley and Charlotte Riley. However, most of them don’t get to do much and are just there to bear witness to Banning’s epic rampage.
After the initial set-up, London Has Fallen speeds up and never takes its foot off the accelerator. It’s one car chase after another, one shootout after another, one hand-to-hand combat scene after another, one explosion after another, and one totally impossible situation after another. It’s basically two climatic episodes of 24 rolled into one (after the writers all had 10 beers each and just went “f&@$ it”).
Stylistically, the execution by Iranian-Swedish director Babak Najafi is pretty good. He’s not as well known as Antoine Fuqua from the first film, but I do like that he prefers to use moderately long cuts as opposed to rapid ones so we can actually see what’s going on. Despite all the mayhem on screen, I never once lost track of who was who or what was what.
If it’s a sin to find enjoyment in that sort of reckless entertainment then I’m guilty as charged. And it’s not like the film was taking itself that seriously — there are plenty of cheesy one-liners to remind us that they just want us to go along with them on this ludicrous escapist adventure. If audiences can accept the over-the-topness (that’s a word now) of say the Fast & Furious franchise then I don’t see why they can’t do so here.
My top qualm apart from the CGI is that, despite upping the ante from American politics into a global affair and escalating the stakes to go along with it, London Has Fallen doesn’t have quite the same amount of tension or intrigue as its predecessor. This is largely because Banning is rarely alone left to fend for himself and therefore we don’t get that same feeling of isolation and vulnerability. In Olympus Has Fallen he was doing his best John McClane impersonation, whereas this time he’s almost always got someone alongside him, whether it is the President or some MI6 operatives. That lone wolf quality we’ve seen with Jason Bourne and Jack Bauer and Bryan Mills and even John Wick just isn’t there this time, and it takes away one of the main reasons that made the original so awesome.
That said, while London doesn’t quite reach the heights of Olympus, it’s nonetheless a damn fun time at the cinema. Let go and embrace it for what it is. There’s no way anyone who goes in to see this film expects some kind of slick, intelligent action thriller that delves deep into the consequences of America’s war on terror. What you’re going to get is copious loads of crazy action, big stars, a healthy dose of cheese, and a movie experience that does the opposite of make you think. And we all need movies like that sometimes.
3.75 stars out of 5