You gotta love Gerald Butler, haven’t you? Best actor in the world? No chance. But put him in his “happy place” and no-one can argue that he always brings it, heading into the mother-of-all rukuses as if, literally, his life depended on it, just like his character’s are facing. In Olympus Has Fallen, and it’s unnecessary and ridiculous sequel London Has Fallen – big box-office means bigger sequel whether we like it or not – Butler honed in on his gruff, sweaty action man persona and has since carved out quite a career doing it. So why not go for a third time?
That three-quel is Angel Has Fallen, part tech-espionage thriller, part The Fugitive rip-off (there’s even a riff on the famous bus/train crash only this time set in the forest) and, surprisingly, actually kinda sorta better than the two predecessors. We were shocked, too, trust us, but stripping down all the bloated excess of London to hone in on a simple chase thriller – granted, with all the usual “terrorists want the President dead” aspects – but its more straightforward, streamlined approach works (just) and plays to its biggest trump card: Butler. Here, his Secret Service agent Mike Banning is a wanted man, but he’s been set-up and to prove his innocence, has to drag himself back into the firing line one more time.
Ok, ok: it’s nothing special nor it’s far from the most original film of its ilk ever to grace the screens, but what it does well is to keep things simple and go all in, especially in the action stakes. Helmed by famed stuntman Ric Roman Waugh, who helmed 2013 Dwayne Johnson vehicle Snitch, there’s a grittier edge to the film that was sorely lacking from its predecessors, who favoured lashings of truly awful CGI work amongst its action set-pieces and while remnants still remain (this is no 2019 Dwayne Johnson vehicle, of course), it’s more grounded approach gives it a new energy, especially with Butler getting his hands dirty as much as he can.
What doesn’t work, however, is the lazy screenplay which has some of the most signposted twists you’ve probably seen through it, amplified even more so when you have a quick check through the cast list – it’s the easiest game of “bad guy bingo” that would pay out exorbitant amounts every time. That’s not to say said actors aren’t decent enough – the appearance of Nick Nolte is rather welcome, and while Freeman phones it in, no-one can do so and still have as much class as he.
So there’s actually plenty to enjoy here as long as you check your brain at the door and just enjoy the ride but if you’re familiar with the franchise, you knew that already. Except this time, there’s rather more heft and substance than before – but only just.
Scott J.Davis | ★★★ 1/2
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Action | USA, 2019 | 15 | Lionsgate Movies | 21st August 2019 (UK) | Dir.Ric Roman Waugh | Gerard Butler, Nick Nolte, Morgan Freeman, Jada Pinkett-Smith, Piper Perabo, Danny Huston