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In “Angel Has Fallen,” Gerard Butler Again Tries To Save A President

When Olympus Has Fallen was released back in 2013, I don’t think anyone assumed it was the start of a franchise. Meant more as a quick way to beat White House Down to theaters (that was the year Hollywood decided that attacks on The White House were the trend to drill down on), it managed to outgross its more polished competitor. Hence, a series was launched. London Has Fallen raised the stakes, and now this week, Angel Has Fallen concludes the story. An improvement over the first two, largely awful outings, this is still a rather mediocre action movie. There’s some fun to be had, but not nearly enough to warrant a recommendation.

Taking place after London Has Fallen, Secret Service Agent Mike Banning (Gerard Butler) now protects a new President in Allan Trumbull (Morgan Freeman), formerly the Vice President. Struggling with insomnia and physical issues after all of the hell he’s gone through in the series, Mike is seriously considering, at the urging of his wife (Piper Perabo), a promotion to Director of the Secret Service. While out on a fishing trip, a drone strike kills all of Mike’s fellow agents and attempts to kill the President, placing him in a coma. However, it leaves Mike unharmed, while shady characters frame him for the attempted assassination. Arrested and labeled a traitor, Mike must figure out a way to clear his name, while still protecting a comatose President Trumbull from danger. Along the way he’ll make new friends, deal with folks from his past, and even reconnect with his father, Clay Banning (Nick Nolte), who now lives alone in the woods. Ric Roman Waugh directs and co-wrote the screenplay with Matt Cook and Robert Mark Kamen. Story credit goes to series creators Katrin Benedikt and Creighton Rothenberger. Cinematography is by Jules O’Loughlin, while David Buckley composed the score. The cast is rounded out by Danny Huston, Tim Blake Nelson, Jada Pinkett Smith, and Lance Reddick, among others.

Gerard Butler and Morgan Freeman seem very bored here, but even so, this is admittedly the best of the franchise to date. That being said, it’s still dumb as rocks. Only occasionally fun, the film mostly is just a bland shoot em up. Much of the enjoyment here comes from Nick Nolte livening things up as Butler’s survivalist father. Scarred by Vietnam, Clay Banning left Mike when he was a kid, but is there when he needs him here. Portrayed as a killing machine, Nolte’s scenes with Butler also are largely played for laughs. It’s a real tonal disconnect, but at least it’s different.

Angel Has Fallen telegraphs every supposed twist in the plot, but one could make the case that it’s not really trying to hide anything from viewers. It’s all about immediate action and thrills. While reparative, the movie is reasonably effective at that. However, whenever you use your brain while watching, the film suffers greatly. Ric Roman Waugh’s direction is shaky and obfuscates much of the actual action in the, you know, action scenes, while the script he penned alongside Katrin Benedikt, Matt Cook, Robert Mark Kamen, and Creighton Rothenberger never once attempts to make sense. Whatever visceral thrills it employs, they’re limited and fall well short of where the flick would need to be in order to get a thumbs up from yours truly.

This week, fans of the franchise can see the latest film in the Mike Banning saga when Angel Has Fallen opens. Butler’s series is likely done, but with popcorn junk like this, you never know. While much better than London Has Fallen and Olympus Has Fallen, the movie still is below average and hardly worth heading out to cineplexes to see. It has the makings of something that will play on cable for a long time, so if you’re intrigued or someone who digs the previous flicks, wait until then. Your standards will be lower and you’ll only be wasting time, not money…

Angel Has Fallen hits theaters this weekend!

About Joey Magidson

A graduate of Stony Brook University (where he studied Cinema and Cultural Studies), resides in Brooklyn, New York. He contributes to several other film-related websites and is a member of the Broadcast Film Critics Association.

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