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Friday, August 23, 2019

Angel Has Fallen

2013's Olympus Has Fallen was nothing great, but at the time, I said it was a better Die Hard movie than some of the recent sequels in that particular franchise had been, and it was.  The movie became a surprise hit at the box office, so we got London Has Fallen in 2016, which I felt suffered a huge dip in quality, and was needlessly cruel, using images of violence and terrorism, not for any purpose, but purely for "entertainment" value.  That one was less well received by critics and audiences, but apparently the people at Lionsgate think there's enough juice in this franchise, as here is Gerard Butler and Morgan Freeman back for Angel Has Fallen. (The rest of the main cast from the last two have decided to sit this one out.)

At least Freeman kind of lucks out, as his character is comatose for about 70% of the film.  He barely registers as a cameo.  Butler has the misfortune of running, shooting and mumbling his way through a script that reads like it was cobbled together entirely out of ancient action movie cliches.  It's also completely absurd and ludicrous.  But hey, a lot of action thrillers are.  This one, however, makes the unwise decision to have its tone be solemn and serious.  It's the kind of movie that you desperately want to laugh at and have fun with, but it won't let you, because it keeps on wanting to be "important".  Part of the charm of the first film is that it fully embraced how ridiculous it was, and allowed the audience to have fun.  This one only comes to life when Nick Nolte, playing Butler's survivalist "off the grid" father, is on screen.  Looking like a drunken and surly Santa Claus, and constantly ranting about the government, Nolte seems to be the only one in this film having any fun.

As for Butler, his returning hero, Secret Service Agent Mike Banning, seems to be falling apart physically.  Due to his exploits in the past couple films, he's now popping pills like candy in order to combat migraines, and is suffering from spinal problems.  He keeps this a secret from the President he's been sworn to protect (Freeman), and from his loving wife (Piper Perabo, stepping in for Radha Mitchell, who played the part in the last two), mostly because he wants to stay in active service, and the thought of a desk job scares him.  Not that we can tell much of this, as Butler plays his role largely as a blank slate here.  Only through his dialogue do we know much about his dilemma.  The only one he feels he can share his fears to is to an old military buddy, Wade (Danny Huston), who feels the same way Mike does about aging and having to leave the game of combat.

The plot involves a mysterious group of mercenaries who plot to assassinate the President, and pin the blame on Mike.  The movie tries to hide who is the mastermind, but just about any sentient audience member should be able to guess the culprit in no time.  It's almost like the film thinks we're as stupid as it is.  Banning must now go on the run from his own government that is hunting him down, because the President is unconscious from the attack, and cannot exonerate him.  Even worse, whoever is behind it has linked Mike to a Russian connection, making it look like he was colluding with them to kill the President.  During the whole "on the run" sequence, the movie resembles a low-rent remake of 1993's film adaptation of The Fugitive.  Only, Butler doesn't have the screen presence of Harrison Ford, as he mostly resorts to puffing his chest and flaring his nostrils in his performance.

Angel Has Fallen is the kind of action movie that cranks up the volume or throws in a car chase when it can't think of anything else to do, which is quite often.  The rest of the time, it tries to touch on some issues, such as the trouble soldiers have when their tour of duty ends, or shady government officials who want to lead the nation into a senseless war.  Naturally, none of these issues are elaborated on in any successful way.  The writers just threw them in in order to give the characters something to talk about when they're not engaging in overly edited action scenes that are cut rapidly and with little concern for coherency.  This is a textbook example of a by the book sequel that was clearly thrown together quickly, and is being quietly pushed out in late summer in the hopes it can maybe have a good weekend at the box office, before it fades from the mind of everyone who sees it.

Let's face it, nobody needed this movie, and it didn't need to be made.  The actors showed up and got paid, which is about the level of energy they give to their performances here.  You have to wonder what a talent like Morgan Freeman does to entertain himself on the set, especially when the role requires him mostly to be unconscious when he's on camera.  A documentary about what he does behind the scenes when he's stuck in a movie like this would be more interesting than anything on display here.

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