Cinema Dispatch: Angel Has Fallen

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Angel Has Fallen and all the images you see in this review are owned by Lionsgate

Directed by Ric Roman Waugh

I didn’t want to see this movie.  Did ANYONE want to see this movie after that horrendous sequel?  If anything worthwhile had come out this week I would have seen that instead, but for some reason things are just drying up between now and IT Chapter 2, so I guess I’ll take what I can get even if it’s… this thing.  Frankly I would have preferred a sequel to that submarine movie he did with the dude from Black Flag, but no one went to see that one and EVERYONE went to see the one where Muslims destroy London, so once again I find myself at the mercy of mainstream taste when entering the multiplex.  Hey, at least it got us the MCU and WAY more Purge movies than anyone could have expected, so it might be worth taking the bad along with the good.  Does this movie manage to redeem a franchise after such an abysmal second outing, or will the trend continue downward with such velocity that it buries straight down into the center of the Earth?  No I’m not sure what that means, but let’s find out!!

Mike Banning (Gerard Butler) is the unstoppable badass of the Secret Service who kicks butt and takes names like nobody’s business in service of the President who is now Allan Trumbull (Morgan Freeman) taking over for Benjamin Asher.  I don’t THINK he died in the last movie so that would mean Trumbull got elected or President Asher died of some other means that Banning couldn’t punch his way out of.  ANYWAY!  What you may not have expected is that despite this being movie three it’s actually a Rocky 5 because all the damage that Banning has accrued over the movies we saw and the missions we didn’t have started to catch up to him as he has to take pain pills to manage his headaches and insomnia which have only gotten progressively worse.  Maybe it’s time to think about a desk job like his friend Wade Jennings (Danny Huston) who runs a PMC that I’m sure will have NOTHING to do with what’s about to happen!  While on a fishing trip, President Trumbull is attacked by a swarm of exploding drones that kills EVERYONE there except for Trumbull who is in a coma and Mike Banning who just barely escaped with his life.  That’s the good news, but the bad news he’s about to hear is PRETTY bad as FBI agent Helen Thompson (Jada Pinkett Smith) has found enough evidence to convict Banning of trying to assassinate the president!  Apparently he couldn’t knock him into the water and say he slipped, he had to send out EXPLODING DRONES to cause MASSIVE explosions that he could have easily been caught in and managed to kill everyone EXCEPT his target.  Sure.  Okay then.  Well it’s hardly a surprise that Banning manages to escape custody and finds out that he’s being set up by the only new character introduced in this movie; namely his PMC buddy Wade who is using the full force of his company to try and kill him and any other American citizen in the way so he can cover up this frame job.  Mike is gonna need to recall all his skills, his wits, and even enlist the help of his estranged father Clay (Nick Nolte) to clear his name, stop the PMC and save the President if there’s time for that too.  Can Mike Banning save the world once again, even if his buddy is the one pulling the strings?  What do they have planned once Mike is dead, and are there greater forces at play in this grand scheme of theirs?  Out of ALL the people to put the frame on, why would they do it to the ONE person who managed to save the White House AND all of London already?  Couldn’t they pin it on Agent Bob or something?  I doubt he’s stabbed even HALF as many people as Banning has!

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“This is the LAST time I cover for you, Bob!  SO not worth the overtime!”

I’m not about to tell you that this series has “bounced back” as the last movie is still unforgivably and unconscionably bad (“Go back to Fuck-head-istan”?  REALLY!?) but I’m surprised that they managed to improve with this one instead of regressing further.  Heck, in regards to the series’ underlying racist and nationalistic themes, it manages to be better than even the first film which is admittedly damning with faint praise, but the last thing I expecting from these movies I to have any sense of self-awareness.  It definitely feels like “the cheap sequel” considering how scaled back the action is and how hilariously bad many of the composite shots are so I’m not about to tell you this anything all that great, but considering where it COULD have gone and how much of American culture has sadly started to embrace the despicable attitudes these movies have perpetuated, I can at least appreciate the effort here to NOT be that way… at least for the most part.  I mean it’s kinda hard to take the jingoism out of a MEN OF ACTION political thriller like this, but at least they’re not leaving a shameful amount of non-white bodies in their wake.

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“DIE YOU BASTARDS!!  But not because of your race, creed, or nationality!”

If it wasn’t clear already, a lot of the things I like about this movie are mostly relative to the utter garbage that was London Has Fallen; back in the heady days where The SCROTUS was just a theoretical possibility and not the waking nightmare we are living through each and every day.  Maybe the fact that Trump’s America has become a reality is what really made these filmmakers look at themselves in the mirror and realize just how xenophobic the last movie was, but whatever caused the turnout to happen, it is very much appreciated that they’ve dropped that stuff almost entirely.  The bad guys are not a minority group that used “lax western immigration policies” to “invade a country” and set up sinister cabals with the goal of killing as many honest and God fearing white people as possible.  They instead use the good ol’ standby of PMCs as the target of Banning’s ire who are actually WORTH vilifying as opposed to every non-white person in the UK.  On top of that, Banning himself is a lot more humanized than he’s been in any of the other movies which shows some genuine maturity on the part of the filmmakers and even Gerard Butler who’s been a producer on this series since the beginning.  I think the first one has been tarnished a bit from what they did in London Has Fallen, but Banning really was one of those hard as nails tough guy action heroes who was fun to watch in that first film before… well everything problematic about it became utterly detestable in the next one.  Here they pull back on him considerably as he’s dealing with not only the physical trauma he’s had to endure in this job (they seem to be alluding to CTE with the headaches he gets), but also the emotional toll it takes to be this kind of remorseless mo-fo who has to solve all his problems with the barrel of a gun or the sharp edge of a knife.  One of the things that, at least for me, kept 24 from being ENTIRELY reactionary Bush-wank was the character of Jack Bauer who’s humanity was always peeking through and you could see how it wore him down throughout the day, and while Gerard Butler isn’t up to Keifer’s level, I think this movie makes a decent enough attempt at that kind of world weariness that comes with the ACTION HERO life.

 

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“HOW many storeys?”     “I don’t know.  A baker’s dozen?  Is that bad?”     “Yeah… that’s probably bad.”

Unfortunately that’s where my praise ends as everything else is rather middling. I REALLY dislike conspiracy stories like this because it makes everything that occurs feel so useless and contrived while everyone in the plot is still trying to get on board with what’s going on.  Maybe I’ve just seen too many movies and now associate TOO MUCH evidence with suspicion, but I just couldn’t buy that so many people immediately went all in on him being the culprit with such weirdly perfect evidence.  His DNA was in the truck that had the drones?  Okay, well wasn’t he WITH EVERYONE AT ALL TIMES DURING THAT TRIP?  At what point could he have POSSIBLY gotten into that truck to shed all over the place!?  It’s one of those plots that requires everyone to make the most blatantly obvious moves possible in order for the plot to move forward, and while some of it does get explained by the end, it’s preposterous and frustrating in the way that makes it hard for me to enjoy the movie; especially when it feels THIS long.  It’s only two hours which isn’t TOO bad for a movie like this, but it feels longer because it feels like we’re barely getting anywhere and the scenes go on forever.  There’s a section of this movie where we meet his dad that has a few solid moments, but it feels like a half hour at least where he’s just hiding out and waiting for the plot to find him again and it leads to another interminably long action scene before driving to ANOTHER interminably long action scene.  It’s not even like the action is all that bad, it just goes on for way too long and falls into a haze of gunplay that doesn’t really have peaks or valleys to keep things interesting.  Frankly the only things to break up the monotony are the amazingly bad green screen shots, but I don’t think that was intentional.

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I’m glad the dust knows better than to climb up the steps!  That just wouldn’t have been very sportsman like!

Other than that there’s not much else worth talking about.  Gerard Butler still seems to be into this franchise, but Morgan Freeman checked out long ago and spends most of the movie in a hospital bed.  The few scenes he’s not are him either sitting, standing, or running in whatever direction the plot needs him to like a very tired MacGuffin.  Radha Mitchell’s been replaced with Piper Perabo as Banning’s wife Leah; for what reason I don’t know because she barely does anything in this movie.  Then again, neither did Radha Mitchell so I guess we’re not really losing anything with this change.  And of course, we’ve got our collection of stars looking for a paycheck for minor roles.  Somehow they managed to get Jada Pinkett Smith in this which just blows my mind, especially with the role she ends up playing and where her story goes, but we’ve got Lance Reddick, Nick Nolte, Tim Blake Nelson, all people who you’ve seen in other movies but not doing anything remarkable here.  Even Dany Huston as the ultimate villain of this movie doesn’t really come across as such which is kind of surprising considering he played a pretty decent villain in Wonder Woman.  It doesn’t help that his motivations are laughable and that he doesn’t seem all that remarkable as an ideas man or as a warrior and this is the kind of movie that REALLY needed a big personality to keep us invested in the story.  Someone like Nicolas Cage or Sharlto Copley to REALLY ham it up and sell the scenes where the bad guy is basically talking trash on the phone and not doing much else.

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The sensible haircut of true villainy!

Is it good?  Is it bad?  It’s probably about right in the middle which is lower than the first film (even if this one improves on the… problematic elements somewhat) but BOY is it better than the last one!  I wouldn’t really recommend seeing it in theaters because of how much it drags, but it might be worth checking out once it gets a home release if you REALLY liked the first one but were disappointed in the sequel.  Honestly, I think we should just swap out London has Fallen for Hunter Killer and call THAT the trilogy.  Forget that piece of garbage ever existed which leaves us with a meh to decent trilogy.  Hey, it’s certainly wouldn’t be the WORST snapshot of the guy’s career which is why I must implore Disney and Warner Bros once again to put this guy in a costume and make a billion dollars with him!  Oh!  Better yet, put him in Star Wars!  Darth Butler?  That’s got to be one of the best Sith names ever, right!?

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