Review: Gerard Butler punches his way through absurd 'Angel has Fallen'
Courtesy of Lionsgate
I’ll be the first to admit that I was a strong advocate for 2013’s surprisingly entertaining “Olympus Has Fallen” - in fact, I’d go on record saying it was probably the best action film of that year. The film gave Gerard Butler his John McClain arch, and though the action was beyond stylized, it had some gravitas and believable stakes.
And then came a sequel, the instantly forgettable “London Has Fallen,” thus cementing this franchise as the latest iteration of “Taken” - and by that I mean, taking any goodwill from a solid first installment and trying to comprehend why Hollywood has to do whatever they can to ruin something halfway decent by green-lighting unnecessary additions that literally nobody asked for.
Which brings us to “Angel Has Fallen” - the third, yes third, entry in the “Fallen” empire. The good news is director Ric Roman Waugh (“Snitch”) has an eye for staging a few crafty action set pieces, and for all the crap Gerard Butler has put out these last couple years (including “London Has Fallen”) for a third installment in a D-level franchise, “Angel has Fallen” could’ve been worse. The bad news is “Angel” still asks so much from its audience, resulting in a moderately improved sequel that ultimately struggles to hold momentum.
It’s more of the same in the “Fallen” universe, and that’s where secret service operative Mike Banning (Butler) is still the stand-up guy who saved President Asher’s (Aaron Eckhart - not in this film) life twice. He’s the top dog, is in charge of keeping newly minted President, and former Speaker of the House, Allan Trumbull (Morgan Freeman) out of harm’s way, and is up for a hefty promotion. The screenplay would have you believe Banning is dealing with moderate concussions and painkiller addiction, except it’s a thin line where the script decides to utilize that element and forgetting it was introduced.
But with a “Fallen” sequel, comes another illogical attempt at assassinating the president, and the film begs the audience to have a brief lapse in judgement where we disregard how, in any scenario, the leader of the free will can be infiltrated … again. If I were a character or level headed citizen in this universe, I’d question if it was worth having a president at all, because it’s awfully hard to carry out policies when you’re getting sniped out by drones while on a quiet fishing retreat.
Banning, being the poor man’s John Wick he is, rescues President Trumbull only to awaken inside a hospital cuffed with a snappy FBI agent (Jada Pinkett Smith) saying they’ve got DNA evidence (and Russian collusion!) pinning him as the mastermind behind the attack, and before you can watch Harrison Ford’s “The Fugitive,” you can bet the uninspired direction Wright is taking us.
Banning, after a quick, brutal, and violent dash with some numbskulls who try to hold him hostage, is now on the run in search of full exoneration with the entire world keeping their eyes peeled for his whereabouts. Locked and loaded, he even tracks down his pops (a scruffy and delightful Nick Nolte) deep in the woods like some hermit whose small slice of heaven is armed with enough artillery and trip wires to thwart a small army, and that’s exactly what they do. It’s the best sequence in “Angel Has Fallen,” because Nolte is clearly having fun and all you're left to do is just smile and let it happen.
That slightly unpredictable moment aside, “Angel Has Fallen” doesn’t do much to trip up the viewer or offer any surprises along the way. You’ll likely know the real culprit behind the scheme long before it's revealed in an unintentionally hilarious moment, and that’s where the film starts to lose you. I can suspend my disbelief so much as you try to make the situations somewhat feasible and you don’t concoct them out of thin air, and the double cross that happens here is not only predictable, well, it’s just downright obnoxious.
Sure, “Angel” is equipped with more than its admirable share of emotional weight, yet it never thinks to explore the real trauma associated with PTSD or the ramifications these events leave on a family. In other words, “Angel Has Fallen” is strictly for audiences who don’t care about the integrity of their action flicks, they need big explosions of which this film has plenty, and Nick Nolte.
Angel Has Fallen is now playing nationwide