It’s your fault I had to endure “London Has Fallen.”
Well maybe not YOU specifically — but because moviegoers around the world contributed to the 2013 “Die Hard” ripoff “Olympus Has Fallen” earning more than $160 million at the box office, we now get a sequel, which as you might have surmised from the title is set mostly in London.
Like the original, “London Has Fallen” features a top-notch cast and some crackling good action sequences. And, alas, like the original, this is a cliché-riddled, aggressively violent, laughably plotted exploitation flick that leaves few stereotypes unturned.
It’s slick trash. You wonder how the likes of Academy Award winners Morgan Freeman and Melissa Leo, as well as reliable veterans Gerard Butler, Aaron Eckhart, Angela Bassett, Robert Forster and Radha Mitchell were able to maintain straight faces while reciting some of their lines.
As you might recall if you’ve seen the original, Butler plays Mike Banning, the Secret Service agent who came to the aid of President Benjamin Asher (Eckhart) after North Korean terrorists mounted a full assault on the White House.
Cut to present day. President Asher is still in office, with Mike leading his Secret Service detail. Mike’s wife Leah is pregnant and worried sick about Mike. That’s the entirety of the role: She’s pregnant and worried sick about Mike.
When the British prime minister dies unexpectedly, leaders from around the world travel to London for the funeral, with security at peak levels.
Mike accompanies the president to the service, and let’s just say it doesn’t go off without a hitch. Cue the painfully realistic CGI shots of famous London landmarks exploding and burning to the ground, British citizens running for their lives, bodies flying through the air in slow motion, soldiers and security details exchanging gunfire with terrorists — and Mike outwitting and outshooting everyone as he narrowly escapes with the president.
Cut to the obligatory war room scene in Washington, where Vice President Allan Trumbull (Morgan Freeman), Secretary of Defense Ruth McMillan (Melissa Leo), Gen. Edward Clegg (Robert Forster) and Chief of Staff DC Mason (Jackie Earle Haley), among others, have gathered to say things like “Oh my God” as they watch events unfurl.
When the terrorist Aamir Barkawi (Alon Moni Aboutboul) appears on the monitor in the war room and starts talking trash, Defense Secretary McMillan helpfully informs the room Barkawi is “No. 6 on the list” of the FBI’s 10 Most Wanted. (Wonder how they came up with that number. Did No. 1 seem too clichéd, while No. 9 didn’t seem evil enough?)
Barkawi tells the Americans his group is going to strike cities around the nation — and torture and execute the president live on the Internet.
“Just imagine every major city descending into chaos,” he snarls. “Your president dies tonight.”
Meanwhile, Mike and President Asher are isolated and on the run, unable to communicate with allies and barely a step ahead of the swarms of terrorists closing in on them. It seems only a matter of time before they’re captured.
“I will not be executed as propaganda,” Asher tells Mike. “You don’t let that happen! If it comes to it, I want you to kill me. That’s an order.”
Eckhart delivers a one-note performance as the noble but soft President Asher, who once again has to put his life in the hands of the grizzled, world-weary but resourceful Mike, a one-man wrecking machine who continues along the “Die Hard” John McClain path. In a telephone exchange with Barkawi in which Barkawi announces his intentions to capture and execute the president, Mike growls, “Yeah? You shoulda brought more men!”
Gerard Butler can do this kind of role in his sleep, and at times he seems to be going through the motions, even during the action sequences.
It’s difficult to imagine anyone appearing in this film thought of it as more than a payday.
Gramercy Pictures presents a film directed by Babak Najafi and written by Creighton Rothenberger, Katrin Benedikt, Christian Gudegast and Chad St. John. Running time: 99 minutes. Rated R (for strong violence and language throughout). Opens Friday at local theaters.