London Has Fallen
London Has Fallen may not be as effective and memorable as its predecessor, but it still offers up a mean slice of 80s action, filled with one-liners and over-the-top violence.
Director Babak Najafi‘s London Has Fallen might not be as strong or as good as Antoine Fuqua‘s surprisingly great Olympus Has Fallen, but it’s a sequel that often hits those same violent beats, only with a little less purpose.
London brings back Secret Agent/American “hero” Mike Banning (Gerard Butler) as he protects the U.S. President (Aaron Eckhart) against yet another terrorist attack, only this time in London.
Najafi does a fine job continuing a story that really didn’t need a sequel. London‘s biggest problem is its lack of urgency and need, but Hollywood is known for making sequels after films do moderately well at the box office, which is why the adventures of Mike Banning might now become a full-fledged franchise.
And I’m totally okay with that, because Banning represents action films of the past, aggressively knocking over the likes of Die Hard as a more “true” piece of American patriotism. Don’t get me wrong here — London (as well as Olympus) is a mean-spirited poke that’s both politically incorrect and ugly, but it’s also damn entertaining.
There’s nothing serious or correct about this film and Najafi and crew knows that and capitalizes on that. London Has Fallen is a big mean slice of 80s action, layered with one-dimensional bad guys and coated with blood and limbs. At the very top sits tough-as-nails bad ass Mike Banning and not once will you question his fearless bravery.
The film sort of sets the mood early during a scene when a group of terrorists are attacking Mike and the President as they are attempting to drive away. One terrorist on a motorcycle comes up right next to their vehicle and from that point Mike grabs his head by his helmet and tells him, “that’s a bad idea”. From that point the terrorist laughs and Mike proceeds to turn the car into the wall barrier, causing the terrorists’ body to be ripped clean off his head, leaving Mike with nothing more than a severed head in his hand, which he then proceeds to chuck aside like a used peanut shell.
It’s that kind of action that fuels London Has Fallen and makes it a bloody great time.
It knows what kind of film it wants to be and it rarely has any troubles being that film to the complete fullest.
I was worried that unknown director Babak Najafi wasn’t up to the task of continuing the legend of bad ass Mike Banning, but Najafi actually makes some slight filmmaking improvements.
Sure, Fuqua’s film felt a little tighter and better structured from a story standpoint, but Najafi’s action is top-notch, including a one-take scene down a narrow alleyway that not only shows Najafi’s ability as a filmmaker, but the level of quality that he brings to shooting action. It’s an impressive moment that totally didn’t have to happen, but he does it anyways to show his care and understanding of constructing such a film.
London Has Fallen does slump down in the character department. There’s no real sense of importance placed upon the villain and most of the secondary characters are pushed back as much as possible to make way for Gerard Butler‘s stab-crazy Banning.
Aaron Eckhart, Melissa Leo, Morgan Freeman and Angela Bassett are mostly wasted assets, with an even more pointless inclusion of Jackie Earle Haley.
London Has Fallen is a one man show and Butler drags dozens upon dozens of bloodied corpses across the finish line with ease, reminding us again and again that he’s a viable action star that deserves every bit of praise that he gets.
I’m not exactly sure that there’s a need for anymore Has Fallen films, but I’d gladly come back for more if Butler and Najafi return. There’s a simplicity to this now-series that I enjoy in a guilty pleasure type of way. Olympus is definitely the better movie, but London acts as a fully-functional sequel that plays off of a tired concept in the best of ways, amping up the action and gunfire, thus turning Banning into a full-fledged action hero icon. It’s glorious excess in the very best way.