By LYNN BARKER
Front Row Features
In “London Has Fallen,” sequel to the 2013 box office hit “Olympus Has Fallen,” a lot of the cast returns to face a bigger, more bombastic, larger-scale crisis as a key terrorist blows up heads of state attending a funeral in London. This time it’s beefy secret service bodyguard Gerard Butler as Mike Banning in a fun action-packed bromance with the U.S. President (Aaron Eckhart) to the rescue.
Also reprising their roles are Radha Mitchell as Mrs. Banning, Morgan Freeman as Veep Trumbull; Angela Bassett as Secret Service Director Lynne Jacobs and an underused Melissa Leo as Secretary of Defense Ruth McMillan with Robert Forster as General Clegg.
A few years ago, U.S. President (Eckhart) gave the okay to bomb a compound containing ruthless weapons seller and terrorist Aamir Barkawi (Alon Aboutboul). What he didn’t know was that Barkawi’s daughter’s wedding was being held there and she and many others were killed. Barkawi, gravely injured, escaped obsessed with revenge.
Flash forward to the present when the U.S. President, his buddy/bodyguard Banning and many other world leaders are assembled for the British Prime Minister’s funeral in London. Leaders are methodically killed by Barkawi-controlled, terrorist-infiltrated British police and emergency services. Banning, the Prez and the Secret Service Director escape after a harrowing car chase to a helicopter dogfight in the skies above Parliament. There is a crash and from then on it’s mostly Butler and Eckhart buddying up big time as they run for their lives to find safe ground.
Somewhere in the mix of good guys is a mole that keeps the baddies one step ahead of the good guys. A hot MI6 agent is sent to ferret him/her out.
At only 99 minutes, the actioner moves from crisis to crisis at a great pace pausing just long enough for some buddy banter and a glimpse of what’s going on back home. In the few quiet moments, it’s established that Banning and wife are expecting a baby any minute and that he is strongly considering resigning.
With a mission of overkill—literally—director Babak Najafi (“Easy Money II: Hard To Kill”) takes over from “Olympus has Fallen’s” Antoine Fuqua deciding that if 10 terrorists attacking the good guys are bad, 50 are better. Still, the stunts and fight choreography are both brutal and exciting.
All famous London landmarks blow up dramatically. It’s like the filmmakers got on a typical double-decker tourist bus going to all the ancient attractions and marked each one for cinematic destruction. The resulting CGI bloodbath and building collapses are spectacular to watch.
In this uber-macho, popcorn-munching, bullets-flying thriller, female characters consist of the loyal pregnant wife, the supposedly super-strong Secret Service Director (who cries in crisis) and a hot, pistol-packin’ MI6 agent. I’d rather Najafi had included a few competent women among the herds of uniformed good guy raiders, though.
Buddy banter spouted by Butler and Eckhart is hit and miss. We know Banning is “made out of bourbon and bad choices” and when his driving skills are criticized, the Commander-in-Chief counters with, “Hey, I’m the President of the United States. I haven’t driven a car in six years.” Yet the two actors do have a great chemistry that makes us like them.
In a Nutshell
“London Has Fallen” has enough red, white and blue, keep the world safe for democratic freedom, good guy bravado to make most audiences want to stand up and salute the U.S. flag. Perhaps in an age where people in larger cities worry about being bombed while having lunch on an outdoor café patio, we need that kind of “winner” entertainment. Hey, if the baddies are after me, I want Gerard as Mike Banning protecting me!