I’m presuming that Donald Trump and his supporters are going to love London Has Fallen (Grammercy/Lionsgate, 3.4). This London-based sequel to Olympus Has Fallen is a crude, gut-level, kill-the-terrorists flick that shows 80 or 90 bad guys getting drilled for their lunacy — the kind of justice that every Trump voter pines for. And yet the movie doesn’t, in the end, have the balls to cut off heads. It wants to but hasn’t the courage of its convictions. I know that sounds weird but hear me out.
London Has Fallen definitely struck me as a reflection of aggressive Trump values — racism, rage, intemperance, militancy. The bad guys are a small army of Middle-Eastern terrorists, and boy, does Gerald Butler‘s Mike Bannon waste these America-hating fucks like there’s no tomorrow…die, die, die, assholes! 90, 100…I lost count.
London Has Fallen is also dumb as a pile of rocks, but what’s a little idiocy between fans and filmmakers? It doesn’t do the spade work, it doesn’t care about logic or realism…nothing. It’s just recycling cliches and humiliating the cast.
At least a couple of hundred ruthless, well-funded terrorists kill a lot of government leaders and security guys and all but reduce London to Fallujah, but except for the appearance of a squad of British SWAT guys who show up in Act Three there is next to no response to the attacks by the British military. Which struck me as bizarre. The resistance mostly boils down to Butler and Aaron Eckhart‘s President Benjamin Asher — a couple of armed bros vs. a gang of ISIS-like demon fiends. (Yes, the baddies are technically doing the bidding of a ruthless 50something arms dealer but we all know what the shot is.)
Yes, London Has Fallen is occasionally “funny” (guys were chortling now and then during this morning’s press screening) but not, for my money, funny enough. By which I mean truly self-lampooning. And why not? Nobody takes this shit even half-seriously so why not go full comedy? Instead all we get are the usual hard-boiled, self-regarding macho quips (straight out of the classic Die Hard playbook) but London never really cuts loose like Roland Emmerich‘s White House Down, which didn’t make as much money as Olympus Has Fallen but was a far more enjoyable film.
For whatever reason (i.e., don’t ask me to explain) but the funniest line in the whole thing is Butler saying to Eckhart, “I don’t know about you but I’m thirsty as fuck.” A perfectly meaningless line that just pushed the right button. I realize I’ve kind of ruined things by quoting this, but at least this line has nothing to do with plot.
The CG explosions and fireballs are more than somewhat crude. If you’ve ever seen work-print versions of films like this you know that convincing CG is simply a process of further and further refinement. You have to keep working and improving and spending the money until it’s right. I don’t know why but the producers on this thing — Butler, Mark Gill, Danny Lerner, Matt O’Toole, etc. — appear to have decided that not-quite-there effects would suffice.
Spoiler: The ISIS echo is brought home in a third-act scene in which a character is about to be beheaded. I won’t say what happens, but it’s fair to say that what anyone who’s ever read about journalists and aid workers being beheaded by ISIS goons or, worse, has glanced at photos of these hostages kneeling in their orange jumpsuits next to the late Jihadi John…anyone who’s waded into those horrible episodes would naturally want to see London Has Fallen‘s senior London-based baddie (played by Omar producer-star Waleed Zuaiter) receive the same treatment. An eye for an eye, a head for a head.
But director Babak Najafi and screenwriters Creighton Rothenberger and Katrin Benedikt wimp out in this regard. If Butler had done the brutal, medieval thing an inner voice I’m not exactly proud of would have said “Yes!” Well, maybe not. I’m not a savage. But I would have at least said to myself, “Okay, that’s fair.”
Two weeks before the Iowa caucuses Trump rented a Des Moines theatre in order to present a free screening of Michael Bay‘s 13 Hours: The Secret Soldiers of Benghazi. I wouldn’t be surprised if he does something similar with London Has Fallen. It’s his kind of movie.