Director Antoine Fuqua’s 2013 hit Olympus Has Fallen has been sequel-ized by a new director (Iranian-Swedish filmmaker Babak Najafi, making his U.S. debut). In the first one, North Korean terrorists took over the White House. This time its Middle Eastern terrorists who put President Benjamin Asher (Aaron Eckhart), now serving his second term following the events of the first film, in jeopardy. And again, his chief Secret Service agent Mike Banning (Gerard Butler) must protect him against hoards of incoming combatants.
The plot involves terrorist mastermind Aamir Barkawi (Alon Moni Aboutboul) who’s looking for revenge two years after a U.S. drone strike killed his daughter. The untimely death of the British Prime Minister gives him the perfect opportunity. With leaders from across the globe attending the funeral service, including President Asher, Barkawi and an endless supply of henchmen stage a multi-tiered strike in London. It’s hard not to notice the logic gaps as we see the entire London police force has been replaced by imposters (where exactly did the actual police go, and how come no one noticed?).
One’s enjoyment of London Has Fallen will largely depend upon how it’s approached. Looking for cheap thrills and purely brainless action? This trim (99 minutes) thriller will probably quench that need. Want a balanced examination of complex U.S./Middle East relations with well-rounded, carefully-considered characters? The first film (or the trailer for this one) should’ve cued you to look elsewhere. Despite its relative success, Olympus was a bit dull and ultimately not as fun as the similarly-themed White House Down (released the same year). But Olympus was a actually tiny bit more serious-minded. Najafi and company have dumbed things down. Agent Banning is basically an invulnerable, wisecracking superhero. Asher is a milquetoast who can kick ass when called upon. That’s as deep as it gets.
Title cards flash up throughout, letting us know who the vast array of characters are. Most of these people have little function, despite being played by notables like Jackie Earle Haley, Robert Forster, Melissa Leo, Angela Bassett, and Radha Mitchell. Of those, only Haley is new to the franchise. None has anything all that important to do or say. Same goes for Morgan Freeman as Vice President Allan Trumbull (he was Speaker of the House last time out). The special effects are surprising cheap looking for a big-budget studio release. Lots of heavy-handed jingoism will likely grate on many viewers’ nerves. But action fans will turn out for London Has Fallen (many already have, with a decent but unspectacular $21.7 million opening weekend). Maybe not worth full-price admission, but if you have a MoviePass card (check out the cinema subscription service here) and a soft spot for guilty pleasures—it’s not a terrible way to spend a couple hours.
London Has Fallen Image: Gramercy Pictures; Lionsgate Films