‘London Has Fallen’ Review: Bigger, Dumber, Not Better

'London Has Fallen'

Movie Rating:

2.5

In the great battle of “Die Hard in the White House” movies of 2013, ‘Olympus Has Fallen’ emerged as the unlikely victor. That was mostly because it was released before the similarly themed and titled ‘White House Down’, but mostly because it was less overblown (i.e. no Roland Emmerich) and more fun. Now we’re treated to an inevitable sequel in ‘London Has Fallen’. As expected, production values are higher and quality is lower.

The original ‘Olympus Has Fallen’ may have been a big, stupid and reductive action movie, but in ways that reminded viewers of a more innocent age when big, stupid and reductive action movies dominated the box office and VHS rental charts. The sequel is still pretty amusing in a “Can you believe human adults actually made this thing?” way, but also a little uncomfortably icky in its politics.

The British Prime Minister has died in London under mysterious circumstances, so all the prominent leaders of the Western world have come to the city in support. Now, that might seem like a horrible idea that can only go wrong, but this is a big dumb action movie, so these things must happen! American President Benjamin Asher (Aaron Eckhart) will be in attendance, which means he’ll have his bestest buddy and super security guard Mike Banning (Gerard Butler) by his side. Banning is about to be a father, so he’s contemplating retirement to settle down and this will likely be his last mission for the President. Obviously, that means it’ll be a quiet mission that’ll go off without a hitch, right? Wrong! You see, this whole event has been arranged by a super-duper Islamic terrorist (Alon Moni Aboutboul) so that he can blow up all the leaders of the free world at once in the greatest act of terror in the history of terrorism. The plan was diabolically perfect. The only hitch is that it didn’t account for Mike Banning… BIG MISTAKE!

Yeah, you can probably guess how things go from there, and you’d be right. That’s not necessarily a fault in the movie, though. Dumb-dumb action films are predictable beasts, after all. It would almost be a disappointment if this thing weren’t predictable as well. While ‘Olympus Has Fallen’ ripped off the ‘Die Hard’ formula, ‘London Has Fallen’ shifts gears to gently rip off the plot of the underrated threequel ‘Die Hard with a Vengeance’ (a.k.a. the one that started the unfortunate trend of titling that franchise with puns). Like that John McClane vs. New York epic, ‘London Has Fallen’ is structured in such a way that as soon as the characters make their way out of one action sequence, the off-camera villain sets up the next action sequence for them to dive into. No need to waste time on exposition! Just keep plowing into action scenes until it becomes exhausting and then toss in another eight action sequences for good measure. Boom-boom, bang-bang, one-liner, lather, rinse, repeat.

That’s actually not a bad way to stretch out ‘Olympus Has Fallen’ into a franchise. If nothing else, the four screenwriters responsible for this thing deserve credit for managing to cram as much spectacle into the screen time as possible with little wasted on talking, characterization or logic. It’s a perfectly efficient action machine that Iranian director Babak Najafi (whom you might remember from that time you didn’t watch ‘Easy Money II: Hard to Kill’) directs with style and insanity. Near the climax, he even launches a massive faux single-take action scene that would qualify as an impressive filmmaking accomplishment were it not a part of such a boneheaded movie.

Gerard Butler screams until you can hear his Scottish accent creep through and yet again delivers a performance that can only be described as “competent.” Aaron Eckhart growls behind Butler, practically begging to get a gun before transforming into the most ass-kicking President since Harrison Ford got sick and tired of people being on his plane. The other big names from the last movie such as Morgan Freeman, Angela Basset, Melissa Leo and Robert Forster return as well, only this time their roles are contained within a single government war room so that they could fulfill their contractual obligations in the least amount of time possible without leaving the room. That about sums up the commitment every actor seemed to have for this sequel, with the possible exception of Butler.

‘London Has Fallen’ gets the gang back together for a movie just as dumb and even more explosive than the original. What’s the problem? Well… the villains. The last movie might have served up plenty of xenophobia with North Korean terrorists, but this time the producers went full Isis. In an age when ‘True Lies’ still hasn’t been released on Blu-ray allegedly because of its insensitive depiction of Muslims, it’s amazing that ‘London Has Fallen’ got produced and released on such a grand scale. Sure, James Cameron may have belittled those characters with slapstick comedy, but this movie paints all Muslims as such vicious, psychotic and heartless villains that it feels a little gross.

This is all custom designed to make Trump supporters cheer and applaud at the screen, and I don’t find too much wrong with a little patriotic/propagandistic B-movie silliness. However, this is a bit much. It’s a little too hateful and a little too cartoonish given the genuine threat such real world terrorists present, as well as pandering to the repellant Islamophobia that’s becoming a plague. While obviously there’s nothing wrong with presenting terrorists as villains (in fact, it’s appropriate), something about ‘London Has Fallen’ crosses a line. I’d imagine the producers specifically hired an Iranian filmmaker to avoid accusations of racism, but that wasn’t enough.

Still, a certain political ickiness is hardly something that will bother most viewers. For better or worse, that’s kind of a genre convention in this sort of dumbbell blockbuster. Most folks likely won’t even notice, while some (like me) will just laugh at the absurdity of it all, which is really the only appropriate reaction to anything in this movie. If you dare to take any component of ‘London Has Fallen’ seriously, you’ll likely be offended by some brand of stupidity. The best approach is just to kick back and laugh away at an action movie so dumb that it turns into camp comedy between all the pretty explosions. Just like how they used to make ’em.

26 comments

  1. Chris B

    Has Gerard Butler ever been in a actual GOOD movie, I mean besides 300 (which everyone loves but I couldn’t get into). It seems every single thing he’s in is dogshit. How is this guy still working?

    • Elizabeth

      Probably because he’s willing to be in movies that are dogshit. I hated 300 myself; I bought it because it was the “must own” Blu-Ray at the time. That’s when I really learned to despise the term, “must own”.

      I didn’t like White House Down so I’ll definitely be avoiding paying to see this movie. Maybe in 4 months when it shows up on Netflix I’ll give it a try.

        • Elizabeth

          Yes, Olympus. Although I doubt it matters. Crappy movies seem to come in pairs: Armageddon/Deep Impact, Volcano/Dante’s Peak, etc.

          • Deaditelord

            Actually, I kind of like that last pair of Volcano and Dante’s Peak. I would never claim they are good movies, but they are world’s better than Armageddon/Deep Impact. Armageddon ranks as one of two films that put me to sleep while in the theater. (For the record, the second was Gangs of New York.)

          • Elizabeth

            I’m actually fond of Volcano myself. Tommy Lee Jones versus a volcano. It was inevitable that the volcano would lose.

  2. AA

    That’s true – nowhere near the charisma of Bruce Willis (john McClane). Hollywood is scraping the bottom for the most part. There are some gems every now and then.

    • Phil

      Yeppers! But also in the same cartoony way as the last one. No severed body parts flailing around the screen, sadly…

  3. Deaditelord

    Even though I hate Trump, I really liked the first movie so I’ll probably give this a shot. It’s rare to get an R rated Die Hard clone these days.

  4. I’m all over this, grew up on those kinds of action movies and getting more in todays world is rare, I loved the first one for what it was, a balls to the wall, over the top, action blow’em’up cheesefest…..thats exactly what I was hoping this one would be and for anyone that gets offended by this movie? Get over it, its Hollywood, this shit isnt serious in the slightest and it hearkens back to a day when the one man army destroyed terrorists left and right, whats wrong with that happening now, especially when these terrorists are worse than ever? I’m all for Hollywood showing us destroying these guys 🙂

  5. CC

    So, ISIS Muslims aren’t evil? They aren’t blowing up people, and cutting their heads off?
    North Korea isn’t evil? They aren’t starving their people and amassing nuclear weapons to use against the west?
    What world do YOU live in?

    • I believe Phil’s point is that the movie suggests that every single Muslim in the world is a terrorist, as if there was no distinction between “Muslim” and ISIS.

      • Timcharger

        I can vouch for Phil. He is wearing his
        American flag pin assuring us of his patriotism
        and that he is anti-ISIS.

        While the 2.5 stars review might suggest that
        he hates America, Phil is saving his 5 stars
        rating for the Fallen trilogy’s final film titled
        “Tehran has Fallen.” True patriot, Phil is.

  6. Opinionhaver

    Yeah, I’m sorry, White House Down was at least aware of its own ridiculousness. Olympus (and I’m sure without having seen it, London) Has Fallen is presented as the toughest, coolest thing ever filmed and that’s why it sucked. There is NOTHING tough about Gerard Butler. I don’t care how much abs and beard he has, he’s not fooling me. Dumb action movies from the 80s at least had a certain charm to them, and some of them (Die Hard, Lethal Weapon, etc.) aren’t dumb at all and are actually legit good. Movies like the “Has Fallen” series are piss-poor substitutes for the mindless fun of decades past.

  7. Csm101

    Yeah, I went and saw this morning. I think this would make for a good rental or reasonably priced blind buy, but not worth seeing theatrically. I barely remember anything about it.

  8. God, this movie was witless and mean. It was one of the most illogically filmed action movies I’ve ever seen. The tracking shot employed is a perfect example of what happens with cool cinematic tools are used incorrectly. The special effects were utterly dismal, bordering on laughable. And Butler’s “you people” speech is probably one of the most racist monologues out there. Also, Mike Banning is just a crappy character. Doesn’t have the grit of Jack Bauer, the style of John Wick, or the cleverness of John McClane.

    Not to mention that the conceit in this movie is that a team of terrorists numbering in the hundreds has pulled off the most elaborate attack in history without arousing any suspicion while simultaneously being populated with the dumbest terrorist soldiers ever. I particularly loved their attack strategies of running down hallways and getting blasted by machine gun fire. Smart dudes.

    • Elizabeth

      But that’s par for the course with Fallen. The first one had all the secret service guys running out the front of the White House right into terrorist fire. Or remember how they had to torture the people to get the codes but then could magically crack the last code in seconds. Or how the terrorist magically got the prototype weapon that one of the characters basically said don’t bother thinking about how ridiculous that is.

      Some action movies are dumb fun; these movies settled on just being dumb.

    • Chapz Kilud

      Aaron I wouldn’t seek advice from security professionals on Hollywood movies. But in real life some of these terrorists are really that dumb. This week 150 of them were killed by drones because they were dumb enough to do group training in broad daylight. They did pull off the bloody attack in France. Obviously I don’t think it’s possible for them to infiltrate the police and government they way they had in the movie. But just about every season of 24 involves a mole. Otherwise the plot would be very limited.

      • The attack(s) portrayed in ‘London Has Fallen’ dwarf any terrorist attacks, even the 9/11 attacks. I couldn’t buy, for even a second, that these people pulled off something like this. It’s ridiculous to the extreme. Suspension of disbelief is elastic. It has a stretching point, at least for me. And when it hits that point it zooms back and slaps me in the face.

        • Chapz Kilud

          On the other hand, if the story is too plausible, then it will give terrorists ideas. For example, when I watched Executive Decision long ago, I told my friend at the time it was something terrorist might copy. Years later they did use plane as a weapon. So it’s very tricky walking the fine line. With this one it was more like I dare you to duplicate this because I know it can’t be done. Now it looks a bit silly. But I could say the same thing about almost every season of 24.

          This is from today’s news. Malaysia did foil an ISIS plot that tried to kidnap its P.M. Obviously it was poorly done. There are some stupid terrorists out there. Some of the James Bonds movies were also on the side of ridiculousness. It’s the nature of these movies sometimes.

  9. Chapz Kilud

    I don’t suppose Phil is voting for candidate that starts with T?

    Phil you probably forgot Olympus Has Fallen was made around when North Korea was making a lot of noise doing rocket launches and nuclear tests. We just go used to it. But at the time it was novelty because Kim Jong-Un got on power in 2012 (Olympus released in 2013). The movie took advantage of that just as today they used terrorists which we have more of than in the past. The same complaints were made about the series 24. If for some reason China starts being aggressive and fire upon U.S. forces in South China Sea, I’m sure Hollywood would hurry to make a movie about conflict with China. Obviously you have a valid point. If they made the bad guys some home-grown hillbilly from Europe, it wouldn’t be as interesting.

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