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MOVIES: Angel Has Fallen - Review

Gerard Butler's Mike Banning has saved both The White House and London, but in Ric Roman Waugh's Angel Has Fallen, can he save himself? Banning feels like a largely interchangable action protagonist that nobody would put in the same league as the likes of Tom Cruise’s Ethan Hunt, Keanu Reeves' John Wick, Bruce Willis' John McClane, or even Cruise’s Jack Reacher, but Butler can chew through bodies like they were nothing and he does it for a living at this point, so it’s not really much of a surprise to see that we’re now on our third movie in the largely forgettable …Has Fallen series. It's a franchise that feels like a relic of a bygone age, not connected at all to its predecessor, which is a good thing, but that can't escape its incredibly derivative and by the numbers approach that lacks heart or soul, never daring to be different enough to stand out, always opting for the safe option where there is one available.

Banning is framed for an attack on the President and forced into the wilderness of the United States unable to use public transport or even shop at garages without being identified by local militia, finding himself under attack from the Government as the most wanted man in the United States. Yet what could have paved way for an interesting The Spy Who Came in From the Cold scenario is instead met with caution. There's nothing in the way of unpredictability as you know who the bad guys are before they even reveal themselves and there’s nothing in the way of suspense at all as the whole thing feels very simple and by the numbers, giving it a very old-school 80s action movie throwback feel which fans of the genre will enjoy. Butler is joined by Nick Nolte in this one who plays Banning’s estranged father, a Vietnam vet, as Angel Has Fallen decides to borrow material liberally from films like Logan as well as every other action movie cliché in the Hollywood playbook. The CGI is barely passable and the less it is used in the daytime the better, although there is some cool explosive work in the dark and it is no surprise that the most enjoyable parts of the movie come when Butler and Nolte are exchanging dialogue as there is a bit of humour to be had here that doesn't feel forced, with both knowing where their characters stand and what film they've found themselves in. Butler is used to these kind of movies after all, he's been doing them his entire career.

It doesn’t help that by the casting of Lance Riddick but there are clear John Wick 3 comparisons here and everything that Angel Has Fallen did, John Wick 3 did better, with the film lacking the sheer brutality and creativity that John Wick 3 had to offer in its fight scenes. The action here seem like a Call of Duty cutscene brought to life (I kept waiting for Butler to call in air strikes after he had achieved a number of kills in a row), but even if they are not particularly memorable, they are at least fun to watch and keep the action lively. An extended chase scene when Banning escapes from the police in a stolen truck is one of the more exciting scenes in the film, as is the lightshow at Banning Sr.’s household, which is probably the film's finest hour.

The pacing of the film is helped as it feels relatively short and moves through plot quickly, even if the resolution feels a bit too neat, and Danny Huston and Tim Blake Nelson are both entirely unremarkable in their roles although the script doesn’t give them much room to explore beyond the threadbare characters that the script provides them with. The film at least decides to make a smart move in losing the xenophobia and right-wing power fantasy elements that came with London Has Fallen, course correcting its politics, even offering a commentary on the current state of warfare on the world stage if, like everything else in this film, it doesn’t really tackle with enough depth to succeed.

If Angel Had Fallen had taken risks with its plot and action set-pieces then it might have stood a chance at turning into a decent film, but that that said, it is competent enough to stand head and shoulders above the rest of the Mike Banning adventures as a passable action thriller, it never sets itself apart from the more creative works in the action genre. The thrills are enough to keep you in your seat for the film's runtime, but it will likely be a one watch only film, something that won't hold up to repeat viewings. And at the end of the day, it knows exactly what kind of film it is and isn't ashamed in that.

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