'London Has Fallen' is Discount 'Die Hard'

That poster is dope though, I'll give it that.

If you see past all the highly improbable coincidences, dumb movie logic, and 90’s action movie clichés, London Has Fallen could actually be a pretty entertaining action romp.

But then again, that’s a lot of IF’S.

London Has Fallen reunites the stellar cast of Olympus Has Fallen. Gerard Butler stars as Mike Banning, the most effective Secret Service agent in the history of fictional Secret Service agents! He’s a total bad ass, killing with no remorse (if not actually taking pleasure in it), never missing a shot, and even saving the President from a terrible helicopter crash. I mean, if you survive a helicopter crash without so much as a limp on you because of this guy, you’ll pretty much survive anything! 

When the British Prime Minister unexpectedly dies, the most prominent leaders of the known world come to London for his funeral. But what would have been a day of mourning for one man became greater tragedy for the nation when terrorists attack the supposedly extremely protected event. World leaders assassinated, national landmarks destroyed, and the American President barely escaping with his life, it’s up to Mike Banning, SUPER SECRET SERVICE MAN, to bring the President back home alive.

president in peril
The President is in peril...again!

I’m sure you can guess from my tone that I didn’t take the movie too seriously. But believe me; it wasn’t for lack of trying. But even as it was trying its hardest to legitimize itself, all the B-movie sensibilities (the generic villain, the do-no-wrong protagonist, wildly ridiculous plot, etc.) still made it very difficult to see London Has Fallen as anything more than your typical machofest.

I could not, for the life of me, feel any of the stakes this movie was flaunting in front of my face. World leaders were dead, which I know should have made me go “Ohhh crap, shit just went down!” But really all it did was make the film jump from gritty and authentic to comically fictional! The idea that all these leaders could be taken out so easily and unglamorously was too preposterous to be considered even remotely possible. Considering all the precautions security details take, it’s difficult enough to imagine killing ONE delegate, let alone a handful of them simultaneously.

this is london
This is madness....No, THIS. IS. LONDOOOOOON!!!!

Half of the British authorities were terrorists and no one noticed? The French Prime Minister arrived in a boat with no entourage, not even a single body guard with him in his quarters? And did the terrorists also take traffic into consideration when they bombed the bridge the Japanese Minister was on? The movie argues that this was the result of years of planning, but it’s a much less stretch to assume it was just a case of very clumsy planning on the protection details’ parts. There’s a reason why the big scale assassination of country heads plot isn’t used too often in serious spy or action movies – because it’s ridiculous – but London Has Fallen transparently and stubbornly uses it if only as a device to manufacture false urgency and scale.

On top of that, the premise or its heroes and villain weren’t the least bit interesting or exceptional. You’ve got a vindictive terrorist, a government super-agent defying the implausible odds, and a lot of bone-cracking, stabbing and shooting - nothing more, nothing less. This would have been okay back in the 90s, when action movies with this formula were rampant, but in today’s more critical and complex action movie narrative landscape, it’s certainly lacking.

Literally fell asleep during this scene.

At the very least though, the action does somewhat live up to expectation. Mike Banning kicks a lot of ass, albeit being the Mary Sue of government types. When he guts bad guys, or runs them over, or shoots their head in point blank range, and THEN provokes their leader ala-John McClane, it’s all very macho and cool. I thought Gerard Butler has had his hay day, but London Has Fallen proves that the man can still hold his own in a (cinematic) fight. Although, Banning is so good at his job and enjoys it waaaay too much that at some point you start to wonder how the President could employ a guy who clearly has some stability issues.

Another aspect I enjoyed very much were the long, action-packed, adrenaline-fueled one-takes. These one-takes are becoming a staple in action scenes nowadays (Daredevil, Spectre), but it still very crafty and entertaining to watch. It gives a more holistic sense of a certain situation, and circumvents the pitfalls of choppy, incoherent editing.

butler to bodyguard
From Butler to Bodyguard.

But alas, that’s about all the compliments I can muster.

Everything just seemed silly after the initial terrorist attack; add that to the aforementioned 100% shooting accuracy and surviving a helicopter crash injury-free, and any real sense of danger goes out the window and you’ve got yourself an accidentally campy action movie.

Mike Banning kicks ass but he’s not a Jack Bauer / John Wick / Jason Bourne level action hero yet. No intricate plot as a backdrop, no standout fighting style, no intrigue, mystery or drama, not even a catchphrase to his name; the dynamic single-takes are the only things it’s got going for itself. Mindlessly violent and disappointingly mediocre, London Has Fallen falls short of its predecessor and cohorts, Die Hard, Bourne, 24 and the like.


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