Starring Gerard Butler, Aaron Eckhart, Morgan Freeman, Charlotte Riley, Melissa Leo, Jackie Earle Haley, Angela Bassett, Colin Salmon
1.5 STARS (out of 5)
It’s hard to review and rate a movie that entertains in such a way that it detracts from what it initially set out to do – and in the case of London Has Fallen, I believe I may well have seen one of the funniest movies of the year – and it’s a shame that none of the genuine jokes it makes connect in any way whatsoever. Sadly, for London Has Fallen, many of its pitfalls are genuinely that laughable. It’s one of the few films that I can say is both as disappointing as it is unintentionally amusing, and I say this with the heaviest of hearts as a genuine fan of what can be described as ‘big dumb action movies’. However, no matter how many times Gerard Butler blusters through fields of one-shot baddies and survives against the odds, he will never be John McClane or Casey Ryback.
London Has Fallen is the follow-up to the disaster movie Olympus Has Fallen, and it surrounds a series of sustained terror attacks upon London in an attempt to wipe out as many world leaders as possible, who the majority of are attending the funeral of the British Prime Minister. As a result of the fallout, the President (Aaron Eckhart) and his constant bodyguard (Gerard Butler) find themselves fighting alone in the rubble-filled streets of what was once Britain’s capital – in an attempt to locate the source of the terror attacks and to wipe out those fighting for the enemy – who is thirsty for vengeance against the US for the death of his daughter in the midst of a bomb attack. The movie follows the President and his Aide as they attempt to get to safety and potentially shut down the terrorist cell that has decided to execute the President live on air.
This has all the makings of a cult classic – there’s a threat, there’s two clear sides, and there’s a nigh-on invulnerable protagonist. However, where London Has Fallen falls the hardest is in that it seems to buy into its own gusto; taking every last scenery-chewing death and every CGI explosion woefully seriously - it really milks the big explosions, which, sadly, are barely up to the technical standards many may be expecting. If, for a moment, the movie relaxed a little and revelled in its over-the-top nature, it wouldn’t have felt so mind-numbingly trite on delivery.
For its pitfalls, the movie at least benefits from sheer effort – there’s a variety of locations on display here, and the stunt work has to be praised – but it’s sadly let down by a story and dialogue which seem happy to revel in cliches and well-worn territory.
The script, for the most part, is below average. Eckhart, Butler and especially Freeman – who have a wealth of talent and credits elsewhere between them – really struggle to make anything of stilted lines, bad jokes and fumbled attempts at emotional resonance – which should rightly say an absolute myriad for the writing. Some pieces of dialogue in this picture are so artificial and misjudged that I couldn’t help but laugh – for longer than I had anticipated.
London Has Fallen - Official Trailer (Lionsgate)
In addition to this, London Has Fallen disappoints on a level that is crucial to any would-be action movie – in that it is inexcusably dull moving into its latter scenes. In a movie where bodies fly, landmarks explode and the future of society is at stake, in the second half of the picture we are left with little other than a by-the-numbers killfest, with very little to interest even the most avid of action aficionados. Baddies are offed with ease, with Butler barely struggling to fight off even the most adverse of foes, arriving in the nick of time to deliver expert moves and shots that, of course, land every time. At least with other action movies, while their protagonists may be extremely overpowered, there is a semblance of at least some sort of challenge. The villains here are simply in it to ‘punish’, and lack any character development beyond the thin revenge plot that is played out to us in the opening five minutes.
London Has Fallen remains entertaining only so much in its audacity and its sheer gumption – as it sadly fails to inspire any kind of lasting tension or intrigue from its flimsy dialogue, carbon-copy characters and action movie cliches. It is a movie that will amuse and entertain only if seen in the knowledge that it is far below the greatness that it so badly wishes to achieve. The stunts alone, as mentioned, contribute to the vast majority of the movie, and if watching such actions are high on your agenda, it is likely you will pull more from London than other viewers.
While its shortcomings and cliches are often amusing, it must be said that this is still a picture which clearly believes it is ‘serious’ drama, and without a shred of the movie being self-aware of its own ridiculousness (except for the odd line from Butler which arrive far too late in the day), we are left with a big, dumb action movie that fails to please on the levels it aims to, and just isn’t goofy or self-aware enough to warrant showing at ‘Bad Movie Night’. For brainless TV viewing, this is ideal – as you barely need to follow it – but treating London as anything more is giving it way too much credit.