london has fallen review
© Lionsgate

London Has Fallen

2016
Dir: Babak Najafi

Capital Punishment

Three years after presidential bodyguard Mike Banning single-handedly saved the White House from a gargantuan terror blitz (Olympus Has Fallen, 2013), we are back in the carefree company of the man himself and his boss, his charge, but most of all his bestest buddy, THE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA. They are out for a run, sharing a joke. All is well. Aaron Eckhart is THE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, the single greatest human achievement (obv), so he’s feeling pretty damn good. His personal security guard, the professionally fawning Gerard Butler, is looking forward to the birth of his first. Things couldn’t be better. What could possibly go wrong? Well… the British Prime Minister could die suddenly. Requiring all world leaders to gather for his funeral. In a city of such ancient historical layout it is impossible to secure. Offering a pesky terror cell a golden opportunity to wipe out all world leaders in one fell swoop and destroy multiple icons of western decadence in one of the most symbolic capitals of the free wor… Ah.

With drudging predictability this is what transpires over the next two trudging hours of London Has Fallen. The attack begins with a total lack of wit or invention. Someone just starts shooting. Like an extra caught wind of the first few pages of the script and decided an early mass mercy killing would be the greatest kindness. It’s not even clear who the terrorists are, it just appears that the entire police force has gone mental and is intent on wiping out anyone with greater authority. So no sooner have Gerard Butler and THE PREZ rolled up at St Pauls Cathedral to pay their respects, they are absconding through the quaint rat run of Ol’ London Town in Cadillac One at, considering the lunch-time traffic density, highly improbable speed.

Gerard Butler is his usual charisma void. But a vacuous aggressive lummox doing an unconvincing accent is an appropriate mascot for such dunderheaded nonsense. Morgan Freeman wades in, minimally fulfilling the ‘Add Weight to Cast’ contract. Aaron Eckhart is doing fine, he’s secured a gig playing THE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA. So he’s feeling pretty damn good.

Early on, endless politicians and security personnel are named and labelled, as if to prove credibility, even though all are fictional and most only feature that once. So it’s literally spelled out that the German-speaking Merkel-alike given an oh-so-symbolic white rose of peace by a young onlooker definitely is the German Chancellor. Meanwhile a slippery Berlusconi clone romances a thirty-year-old laydee (we know because she helpfully exposits that it’s her birthday) on top of Westminster Abbey. Yes, really.

[PLOT… er, ‘SPOILERS’ AHEAD!]

A visual orgy of destruction of London’s iconic landmarks is neglected in favour of a predictable and short-lived skim through a few disaster movie clichés. Some explosions near Parliament. A bridge collapses. A helicopter is downed. So we are even denied the exhilarating catharsis of seeing the capital spectacularly razed to the ground. Instead we find ourselves the uncomfortable gooseberry in a bizarre bullet-strewn bromance between Butler and The Big Boss. Once the dynamic duo has worked out where the villain’s evil lair is, they head underground and we are down in the dark with them for the interminable remainder of the running time. It’s then nothing but a tedious succession of gloomy tunnels, endless rounds of ricocheting bullets, and wise-guy wisecracks.

Butler’s highlights include, upon THE PREZ emerging from hiding in a cupboard; “I was wondering when you’d come out of the closet”, “I don’t know about you but I’m thirsty as fuck”. Followed by the downing of (nearly) a pint of water. Whattaguy. And the crowning glory “Go back to fuckhead-istan or wherever you’re from”. Speechless. I wish he had been. After recovering from such eloquence, we are simply tired and bored by the time we reach the ‘climax’, which carries no tension or jeopardy whatsoever. But thank God, Butler and THE PREZ are able to share a laugh again. All other world leaders have been horrifically slaughtered alongside countless civilians, and London’s landmarks lie in ruins. But, entirely due to Butler’s buffness, THE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA is alive and well. And he’s feeling pretty damn good. And yes I did start this paragraph by saying THE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA was hiding from terrorists in a cupboard.

London Has Fallen is a broken promise. A witlessly aggressive, ridiculous, boring dirge of self-worshipping USA pop-aganda. With, considering the premise and the level of violence, a disturbingly lightweight tone. Later, Butler agonises over a draft email that tenders his resignation. He hovers over the ‘delete’ and ‘send’ buttons, unable to decide. Please, Gerard Butler, save us this time. From any more. Press ‘send’.

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