VOD film review: London Has Fallen
Ivan Radford | On 22, Jul 2016
Director: Babak Najafi
Cast: Gerard Butler, Aaron Eckhart
Watch London Has Fallen online in the UK: Amazon Prime / Apple TV (iTunes) / Prime Video (Buy/Rent) / TalkTalk TV / Rakuten TV / Google Play
It’s incredible that despite all of the destruction we see in London Has Fallen, London Bridge never actually falls down. Unfortunately, that’s the only incredible thing about it. The film is a by-the-numbers action sequel filled with racist jingoism, occasionally dodgy effects and frequently bad dialogue. With Gerard Butler signing on to star, the predictable, mediocre result is, sadly, all too credible.
It didn’t have to be like this, of course. Olympus Has Fallen, the blockbuster that spawned this unattractive offspring, was an oddly enjoyable, trashy affair, taking the script for Die Hard and find-and-replacing the words “Nakatomi Plaza” with “the White House”. Butler’s Mike Banning was a gruff, rough-and-ready security agent with enough balls to be vaguely likeable, despite his tendency to spout the theme song to Team America, albeit without the irony.
London Has Fallen sees Mike and his beloved President (Eckhart) relocate to the UK, where they’re attending the Prime Minister’s funeral – an event that turns out to be a trap for terrorists from “Fuckheadistan or wherever it is they’re from” to bump off all the attending world leaders. Despite being on British soil, though, the franchise’s American brand of xenophobia actually feels less subtle; of course, it’s the President’s life that matters. And, of course, the all-American hero is the only one who can save the day.
What follows is an extended montage of Butler’s Banning blowing the brains (and other body parts) out of the bodies of assorted foreigners. Director Babak Najafi, who helmed the impressive Easy Money II, stages some of the set pieces with passable pizzazz, making the most of a chance to show London’s skyline and buildings off in a way that rarely happens on the big screen. The siege of the Prime Minister’s funeral genuinely captures the claustrophobia of an unfolding incident in a tightly-packed urban environment, as the sun gradually sets in the background.
But the script undoes any potential with the laziest of cliches, from the token pregnant wife (Radha Mitchell) to the room full of British police officials (led by Colin Salmon), who, like most of the supporting characters, have no impact on the plot whatsoever. Even Morgan Freeman, returning as the Vice President, literally phones in his performance.
All of that could be fine, if the film were able to keep things entertaining, but it’s weighed down by its gung-ho, right-wing attitude, and, crucially, fails to make either its jokes amusing (although Eckhart and Butler try their best to sell their bromance) or its grisly violence satisfying.
“Was that necessary?” asks the President, after Banning has brutally bled a bad guy out on the London Underground, while on the walkie-talkie to his brother. “No,” comes the reply. The film continues without further comment. In an age of increasingly populist, anti-immigrant sentiment, such a message feels irresponsible, while any allusions to the questionable morality of drone attacks are brushed aside with a casual policy of justified revenge. With characters no longer able to get us to cheer them on, and ever-diminishing returns from a tired premise, London Has Fallen is a disappointingly drab no-brainer. “What are you made of?” jokes the President early on. “Bourbon and poor choices,” Gerard Butler retorts. And how.
London Has Fallen is available to watch online on Amazon Prime Video as part of a Prime membership or a £5.99 monthly subscription.