REVIEW: ‘London Has Fallen’ Doesn’t Live Up To Olympus

“Olympus Has Fallen,” released in 2013, was actually an enjoyable action flick. Of course it was an obvious take on the “Die Hard” idea of one man being in a building against a whole group of baddies, but it was still a fun time at the theater.

The action was intense with a solid R rating and the “Die Hard” set up of being trapped in a single location always makes for suspense. Another strength the movie had going for it was the use of a cast that included Morgan Freeman, Melissa Leo and Angela Bassett, similar in a way to “Air Force One.”

Unfortunately, because of the first film’s box office performance, a sequel had to get made, and this time things didn’t come together very well.

“London Has Fallen” takes place a few years after the events of “Olympus,” with Gerard Butler’s character Mike Banning still working as a Secret Service agent for U.S. President Benjamin Asher (Aaron Eckhart.) Just before Banning can take some vacation time from his job and spend time with his wife, though, the British Prime Minister unexpectedly dies.

This thrusts Banning into accompanying Asher to London where the funeral is to be held. Just a short time after they arrive, though, an attack takes place which takes out multiple world leaders and destroys a few British landmarks. Cut off from aid, Banning has to help Asher survive through London and get to safety.

Unlike its predecessor, “London Has Fallen” falls flat and does so early. The action sequence in the opening act, while certainly gruesome, doesn’t capture the same level of chaos that the one in the first movie did, and that’s on top of the fact that the whole scenario was astronomically improbable.

Plus, this opening attack scene involves multiple world leaders, including those from Germany, France and Japan getting killed. Do they or their respective country’s response ever get brought up again? Nope. There’s also a line about the Russian president not attending. Does this line develop into anything? Nope.

Instead, for much of the film the audience gets to follow Banning and Asher go from place to place in a poorly lit London, avoiding the potential terrorists that surround them. It leads to a second act that feels lacking in suspense.

The third act doesn’t fare much better, mainly because of a rather lame villain, Kamran Barkawi (played by Waleed Zuaiter) running the show. The first movie had the benefit of Rick Yune doing a good job playing a villainous character. In comparison, Zuaiter’s performance doesn’t offer much when viewed against Yune’s more charismatic portrayal.

Additionally, the villain’s plot this time around isn’t as dire. The last movie had the White House being taken over, potential war and the nuclear launch codes were on the line. Not so much here.

The rest of the cast isn’t exactly stellar, either. Freeman, for example, is in the movie but there are moments where it feels like he is phoning it in. This is especially the case since it’s obvious he doesn’t share any scene with a main character. In one scene where he’s talking face to face with Butler’s character it looks artificial.

Good performers like Jackie Earle Haley, Leo and Robert Forster are completely sidelined here, not even having much good dialogue, instead its more worried looks. The movie even wasted a potentially interesting subplot with a mole in the British MI6 agency.

As for the two lead characters, the movie was trying to juggle a buddy-cop atmosphere between them, sort of what “White House Down” did in 2013, while at the same time keeping things heavy and dreary. It simply doesn’t mesh.

In all fairness, though, Eckhart is serviceable in playing the president and like I thought in “Olympus,” Butler does a good job playing the tough, gritty action hero. It’s just too bad the movie around them doesn’t have much to offer.

The action is a bit hit or miss in “London Has Fallen.” Out is Director Antoine Fuqua from the first movie, this time around the film was helmed by Babak Najafi and it’s noticeable the action is in different hands. The editing was especially choppy in some scenes making it difficult to know exactly what was going on.

At the very least, there were some solid action sequences, though, that kept me entertained for a few minutes here and there.

It’s already been said by others, but I’ll say it again. “London Has Fallen” was a sequel that wasn’t needed. The first was a pretty fun action movie with a really specific idea, but this time around the whole thing felt aimless. On top of the cast isn’t as well utilized and the action could be better. The short run time and entertainment value make it at least watchable, but it’s one to maybe just catch on cable. 2 out of 5.

Author: Matthew Liedke

Journalist and film critic in Minnesota. Graduate of Rainy River College and Minnesota State University in Moorhead. Outside of movies I also enjoy sports, craft beers and the occasional video game.

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