London Has Fallen – Review (**)

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HAIL

After many gave 2013’s Olympus Has Fallen the scarce benefit of the doubt, there was hope that this London-set sequel might serve up the same bombastic, gleefully dumb, Die Hard-inspired thrills in a new setting. Sadly, this lower-budget follow-up is inferior in basically every way.

As the world’s leaders travel to London to attend the funeral of the British Prime Minister, a terrorist cell launches an attack, with their ultimate goal being to eliminate President Benjamin Asher (Aaron Eckhart). But of course, Asher is joined by his pal and top Secret Service agent Mike Banning (Gerard Butler), who is Hell-bent on keeping the POTUS alive by any means necessary.

Let’s get the long-and-short of it out of the way; London Has Fallen is a bad film, no question. It is, however, perversely entertaining enough that those willing to imbibe a few beers beforehand may find themselves giggling at the silliness of it all. From the cringe-worthy melodrama (Mike is expecting a child, because of course) to the “America, fuck yeah!” tonality and the not-so-casual racism (namely an at-once howlingly offensive and hysterically funny one-liner in which Mike uses the word “Fuckheadistan”), it’s a film that amuses precisely because it takes itself far too seriously, which in fairness was also a problem with the original (and arguably made the lighter White House Down a more enjoyable sit overall).

Here, the sadism is at a surprising high even considering the audience it’s gunning for; the revenge porn is strong with this one, and it’s not always pleasant to observe (if at least resolutely, dangerously honest about an ugly facet of American culture). It’s a shame because, with a slightly lighter tone, the film would have been so much more fun; instead the chintzy one-liners clash harshly with the unashamed brutality.

Then there’s the cast, for while Eckhart and Butler enjoy fun banter, characters who had significant parts in the first movie, Melissa Leo most of all, are reduced to virtual non-entities here, save perhaps for Morgan Freeman, whose oratory vocal cadence is put to solid use of course.

The action sequences aren’t bad – especially one digitally-sewn “single take” shootout through the capital’s streets – even if there probably should be more of it, but the atrocious visual effects, staggeringly bad dialogue and overall feeling that this is lesser than the original prevent it from being more than a totally forgettable light show. Even if it does well enough to generate another follow-up (Paris Has Fallen? too soon?), this is not an encouraging sign at all.

**

London Has Fallen is in cinemas now

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