There is a point in the awful London Has Fallen when the boiling protagonist (Gerard Butler) is beating the hell out of a bad guy while embarking on a profanity-laced diatribe about the staying power of America. “A thousand years from now,” he snarls, “we’ll still fucking be here.”
The aforementioned moment is one of many comparable moments intended to stir cheers from the target audience of this 2016 block of all-American bro-meat. Perhaps ironically directed by Babak Najafi and based on a by-committee screenplay, this sequel to 2013’s Olympus Has Fallen resuscitates the same disordered action zing of the original and beefs it up.
The movie opens with news that the UK Prime Minster has died. World leaders flock to London to pay their respects, which puts US President Benjamin Asher (Aaron Eckhart) on a plane with his best bud and Secret Service agent Banning (Butler). Shortly after everyone touches down in Great Britain, all hell breaks loose.
Terrorists led by Aamir Barkawi (Alon Moni Aboutboul) unleash a series of attacks on London and wipe out most of the world leaders, except for the Americans. Banning springs into action to get Asher to safety, which sets him out across the city to dispatch the wrongdoers and kick all kinds of foreign ass.
London Has Fallen boasts an impressive cast, from the duo of Eckhart and Butler to a pile of American government officials played by Morgan Freeman, Angela Bassett, Robert Forster, Jackie Earle Haley, and Melissa Leo. The star-studded group gets to go through the paces of monitoring the operation and setting up details and parsing over how bad the bad guys are.
And the bad guys are bad. Freeman’s US Vice President Turnbull cites Barkawi as responsible for more deaths than the plague, which puts it in the range of at least 75 million. Somehow, the heinous terrorist is only in sixth place on the Top 10 Most Wanted list.
The Americans come up with all sorts of excuses as to how their behaviour on the world stage is justified and how the terrorists are criminals sponsored by “failed states,” but this montage of justifications is mere window-dressing. The audience knows who the good guys are and London Has Fallen makes sure of it.
Exaggeration abounds, even in smaller and less essential doses. Butler’s character kills a bad guy and remarks that he has “more ammunition than the whole US army.” The hyperbolic statement sure coincides with the current president’s insistence on a “depleted” military, doesn’t it?
When asked about the movie’s timing considering the Paris attacks in November of 2015, producer and star Butler reminded critics that London Has Fallen is just fiction. That’s a given. But ignoring the splaying subtext and dog-whistle practicalities of the “us against them” narrative is futile, especially given how compulsory accepting it is to accepting the movie as a whole.
It’s possible to divorce London Has Fallen from its carnival act, but what’s left? The action is mediocre, ineptly filmed and reliant on dim-witted CGI. A helicopter crashes and kind of skitters away. There’s a lot of shooting, most of which is blunderingly captured. And at one point Bannon Banning tells a bad guy to “go back to Fuckheadistan.” Now that’s entertainment.