Angel Has Fallen

2019-08-23 10:06
 
Gerad Butler in a scene from 'Angel Has Fallen.'

WHAT IT'S ABOUT:

After a shocking drone strike that left his entire team dead and the president in a coma, US Secret Service Agent, Mike Banning, is accused by the FBI for orchestrating the whole thing and was bought and paid for by top officials in the Russian government. On the run from both his own government and the shadowy forces behind it all, Banning must clear his name and get to the bottom of what is going on if he is to save the president and prevent all-out war with Russia.

WHAT WE THOUGHT:

After London Has Fallen was eviscerated by critics not just for being a pretty bog-standard action movie but for being rampantly xenophobic, this third instalment in the unlikely "...Has Fallen" franchise is a solid return to form. Now, granted, that form is pretty underwhelming to anyone who has seen more than three action films in their life but, credit where credit's due, in an age when these sorts of films seldom make much of an impact on the Box Office and, in fact, are seldom actually developed for cinematic releases, there is something impressive about so old-fashioned an action-thriller being able to enjoy the kind of success that it has.

In comparison to most major action franchises out there right now, the "Has Fallen" movies have none of the fantastical spectacle of most superhero films, none of the cool stylishness of John Wick, and none of the crazed bravura of the Mission Impossible series. This is pure, stripped-down action-thriller filmmaking and, in the case of Angel Has Fallen, it may well be the most proficient entry in the series to date. It certainly helps that it isn't forced to go up against a remarkably similar film that does its job with a lot more style and wit (I'm still surprised that it was Olympus Has Fallen that spawned a franchise and not the vastly superior White House Down) and that it doesn't really have any real competition at the moment in this particular niche.

As it is, that proficiency is both the best and worst thing about the film. After so thoroughly embarrassing itself with its previous instalment, Angel Has Fallen brings the series back to more familiar ground and to one of the most reliably effective genre tropes around. Stories about secret agents, bodyguards or cops being framed for doing the very thing they're supposed to prevent are a dime a dozen and, for long-running series, are pretty much expected to show up at some point or another – and there's a good reason for it. It might be an incredibly well-used trope, but it is one that comes with a level of basic emotional engagement and excitement built into its very DNA. It's pretty much foolproof, in other words.

Stuntman-turned-director, Ric Roman Waugh, and his team of five (five!) credited writers clearly understand this, and they have turned out a film that, aside for the odd murky action scene, basically does exactly what it sets out to do. The problem, though, is that everyone involved with the film is so certain that one would have to try to mess up so proven a formula that they just haven't tried at all.

What we have here is a film that is perfectly watchable (though it really didn't need a full two-hour running time to do its thing) but is also one of the laziest pieces of Hollywood blockbuster filmmaking I've seen in some time. It's like the filmmakers are so sure that the audience will always be one step ahead of them that they couldn't be bothered to do anything but play down to expectations. It's not just that the film is spectacularly predictable, it's that it couldn't be bothered to be anything else whatsoever.

You will know exactly who the bad guys are from within something like the first five minutes of the film and there is never any attempt to obscure that fact or even throw a red herring your way. You already know why these sorts of baddies do the things they do so there is no attempt to explore any of their motivations whatsoever. When Nick Nolte shows up, you know exactly the kind of character he's going to be and exactly where his relationship with Butler's character is going to go, and it all plays out exactly as you might predict.

And, of course, when you have Morgan Freeman playing the president, you know there's going to be a stirring speech or two (though the writing is so half-assed here, "stirring" is rather pushing it), just as the involvement of "Russian collusion" is going to bring up some quarter-assed jabs at the current American president (not that that makes any sense whatsoever considering that in the magical world of this film, Donald Trump doesn't even seem to exist, let alone comes within a million miles of the Oval Office).

There's not much effort exerted by those in front of the camera, either. Butler is Butler, and he does a perfectly fine job here as the series consistently uninteresting hero, but only Nick Nolte as his very Nick Nolte-ish dad looks like he's having any fun whatsoever. Morgan Freeman shows up for only a fraction of the film for what is undoubtedly an easy cheque, while Aaron Eckhart perhaps wisely avoids the whole thing altogether. Worst of all, though, are the film's only two female characters. Piper Perabo is stuck in the thankless role of the worried girlfriend, but at least she doesn't embarrass herself as badly as Jada Pinkett-Smith who is flat out awful in one of the film's most pointless roles (and that's saying something!).

All this said, though, if you are a fan of generic '80s and '90s action movies of the sort that you actually don't really see any more, Angel Has Fallen will at least scratch that itch. For anyone else, though, I can't even begin to imagine what you would get out of it or, for that matter, why you would even want to see it in the first place. Cinema prices are just way too high to waste your hard-earned cash on something this inane and this contemptuously lazy.


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