ANGEL HAS FALLEN ½
2019, R, 121 mins.
Gerard Butler as Mike Banning / Morgan Freeman as Allan Trumbull / Jada Pinkett Smith as FBI Agent Thompson / Lance Reddick as Gentry / Tim Blake Nelson as Vice President Kirby / Piper Perabo as Leah Banning / Nick Nolte as Clay Banning / Danny Huston as Wade Jennings
Directed by Ric Roman Waugh / Written by Robert Mark Kamen, Matt Cook, and Ric Roman Waugh
To this very day I've find myself still defending my 3.5 star review of the 2013 DIE HARD clone OLYMPUS HAS FALLEN.
Antoine Fuqua directed, Gerard Butler staring action vehicle never once
hid the fact that it was a beyond obvious knock-off of the iconic 1988
Bruce Willis franchise/genre starter, but it emerged as one of the finest
emulators of that cherished and very overused template and wholeheartedly
delivered on successfully riffing on the bombastic films of a bygone era.
Having said that, I never thought that the superbly engineered
OLYMPUS HAS FALLEN was requiring sequels, and the unavoidable LONDON
HAS FALLEN still delivered on bruise knuckled and teeth clenched
mayhem, but also seemed even louder, cruder, and dumber that what came
before (that, and the xenophobic leanings of its main hero was a real turn
brings me to yet another franchise entry that, to be frank, I highly doubt
even the most - ahem! - die hard fans of OLYMPUS HAS FALLEN were
ever clamoring for. ANGEL HAS FALLEN continues the blood curdling adventures of
Butler's gruff and tough secret service agent, who's once again tasked to
defend a very vulnerable and under attack president (the Commander-in-Chiefs
that populate this series are among the most unlucky in cinema history).
This latest entry continues the series' modestly enjoyable
retrograde simplicity as over-top-top action romps and its creative aims
are decidedly low in this respect. However, it also does what good sequels should do in terms of
mixing things up, in its case showing the years of barbaric wear and tear
that have been inflicted on Butler's America...FUCK YEAH hero and
how they're starting to take their toll.
Beyond that, there's a semi-intriguing wrench that's thrown into
this franchise's story machine in terms of harnessing the
innocent-man-on-the-run narrative elements of THE FUGITIVE.
There's an eagerness on the maker's part here to shake things up
while given audiences what they expect, but at the same time ANGEL HAS
FALLEN nevertheless feels like a sequel coasting on predictable autopilot
that struggles to justify a hefty movie ticket cost to see it.
there's at least some commendable attempts at character progression for
this threequel, showcasing Butler's once trash talking and ass kicking
agent Mike Banning being broken down by the ridiculous amount of
punishment that he went through in the previous two installments.
Suffering from debilitating dizzy spells, unbearable chronic spinal
pain and horrendous migraines, Banning has most certainly seen better
days. The added layer of aging vulnerability gives ANGEL HAS FALLEN
a much needed jolt of intrigue, and Banning has segued over the course of
a few films from an aggressively cocky and tenaciously brutal freedom
fighter that defeated bad guys with vengeful ease to a pill popping drug
addict that's pathetically trying to hide his frailties from his bosses at
the risk of losing a long awaited promotion from the new president, Allen
Trumbull (series regular Morgan Freeman).
Yet, Banning finds the prospects of getting the highly coveted
Director of the Secret Service gig to be panic inducing, seeing as he
would have to abandon field work and become a office/desk lackey.
reveals all of his insecurities about the future to his old military buddy
in Wade Jennings (played by Danny Huston, whose introduction and very
presence in this film more than easily predicts a nefarious and villainous
backstabbing turn for this character).
Banning still soldiers on in his current job to protect President
Trumbull, but tragedy strikes early on very a secret group of mercs launch
a terrifying and lethal drone attack against the president, but because of
Banning's quick wits he ensures Trumbull's survival, even though he's
seriously wounded and ends up in a coma.
It's revealed - to absolutely no audience member's shock - that
Jennings is the man behind the hellish attacks and frames his ex-BFF for
them, leading to Banning going on full Richard Kimbell on the run
mode in a desperate attempt to avoid capture and clear his name.
Conveniently, the president remains in a coma and is unable to
support Banning's innocence to the press.
FUGITIVE-esque scripting angle to ANGEL HAS FALLEN gives this sequel some
compelling forward momentum and interest, which is a stark contrast to the
previous film's DIE HARD-ian cat and mouse formulas.
Instead of hiding in the shadows and launching guerrilla attacks on
his foes that will stop at nothing to ensure the president's
assassination, Banning this go around has to flee and be on the run after
a botched assassination attempt. The chief villain's targeted manipulation of the media is
also interesting, making it that much more difficult for Banning to elude
capture, especially when his face is all over social media and the news.
And Butler sure does look more tired and withered in this film, but
he still embraces the new character dynamics and storytelling arcs with a
guileless spunk. Butler's a
better actor than many give him credit for, and it's certainly true that
these action vehicles don't require much range from him.
But Butler continues to make Banning a confident and charming brute
that fights for what's right and commands our rooting interest rather
more refreshingly stripped down approach to ANGEL HAS FALLEN is also
noteworthy, especially for showcasing the efforts of Banning to live off
the grid and stay low to avoid conflict.
This takes him to a fateful and awkward rendezvous with his
estranged father (a rock solid Nick Nolte), who's a former Vietnam War vet
with multiple screws loose that lives a mountain man/hermit life in the
wild because of his genuine disdain and distrust of a constantly
monitoring U.S. government. Nolte
is in pure scenery chewing mode here in one of this franchise's best new
additions, which also gives Banning's backstory a heartbreaking poignancy. This father is also responsible for one of the film's more
hilariously violent moments showing him blowing up multiple goons that are
on his son's trail in ways that would make Rambo blush. ANGEL HAS FALLEN also boasts a few other stellar action
sequences, like that aforementioned drone attack early on that packs a
bombastic visceral punch on top of being scarily thrilling.
the rest of ANGEL HAS FALLEN is not as well oiled as it should have been,
and co-writer and director Ric Roman Waugh (helmer of the underrated and
mostly forgotten Dwayne Johnson thriller SNITCH)
seems to be working within the same tiresomely overused action filmmaking
techniques of many of his contemporaries, revving up sequences with far
too much hyperactive editing and incomprehensible camera work and editing. Waugh was a former movie stuntman, which one would think
would allow for him to excel at engineering set pieces with the same
clarity and precision as, say, JOHN WICK's
Chad Stahelski (also a former stuntman).
Regrettably, ANGEL HAS FALLEN lacks the stylistic panache of its
prequels and is just too damn aesthetically chaotic for its own good.
Pacing seems to be an issue as well here, with the film getting off
to a highly odd and slow start that only becomes semi-gripping in its last
half. And at two hours, ANGEL
HAS FALLEN feels bloated and could have easily been trimmed to more
digestibly short levels.
And when it boils right down to it, very little of anything that happens in this film is surprising, and it certainly doesn't take a fortune teller to predict Huston's character's would-be surprising turn to evil (it's painfully telegraphed). And maybe ANGEL HAS FALLEN takes itself a bit too seriously as well and lacks the dopey grindhouse appeal of its predecessors. This film wants to be a dumb and fun action romp with a insanely high body count, but also wants to chime in on many potentially thoughtful political and military themes that it clearly doesn't have the scripting smarts to tackle in any meaningful way. And for as committed as Butler is here and the unpredictably kooky edge that Nolte brings to the table, other supporting actors look like they're in pure paycheck grabbing mode (Freeman himself looks bored stiff and is mercifully unconscious throughout a majority of the film). ANGEL HAS FALLEN has its share of bottom feeding guilty pleasures, to be sure, and it makes honest attempts to change the series template while slavishly adhering to it in multiple respects, which helps elevate it above being completely disposable sequel drivel. When all is said and done, ANGEL HAS FALLEN makes a strong case for a rental on a stormy night, but isn't quite up to the task of warranting a trek to your local cinema for consumption.