PHOTO COURTESY INDEPENDENT UK
By: Nate Gimby
Released earlier this month, London Has Fallen is the sequel to 2013’s Olympus has Fallen that I presume no one asked for and I hesitate to dignify with a review. It’s not that it’s an absolutely terrible movie, it’s just a mostly unremarkable, poorly written excuse to send a roided-out Gerard Butler after a city full of vaguely Middle Eastern terrorists while he “protects” the President from his increasingly poor decisions. But there’s a special place in my heart for jingoistic, pro-America propaganda flicks and London Has Fallen is so gleefully gung-ho in its patriotism that it borders on satire.
In fact, if this film had even an ounce of personality or cleverness about the way it seems to simultaneously lambast and celebrate uber-patriotic Hollywood murder-porn, it might have been a pretty decent B-movie. London Has Fallen is like Die Hard 3 and Lone Survivor had a baby and it was raised by Michael Bay’s illegitimate teenage son, resentful, sarcastic and incompetent but still thirsty for paternal approval. Its got explosions, car chases, brutal gun fights, and enough cheesy one-liners to make 1980 action star Jean Claude Van Damme blush and curtsy like a little girl. These elements come together in such a contrived, over the top way that they almost seem intentionally irreverent.
I felt like London Has Fallen was always just on the cusp of making light of how America’s suicidal machismo is going to get everyone on the planet killed. Mike Banning (Gerard Butler) is the president’s bodyguard but his only perceivable function is to revel in the death and suffering of America’s enemies. Meanwhile, President Asher (Aaron Eckhart) seems to have been living on saltines and cheap cinnamon whiskey for several months because he sounds as gravelly and ridiculous as Christian Bale as Batman, but without the muscles to back it up. Luckily his lone secret service lackey takes an uncomfortable amount of enjoyment in stabbing and shooting other humans and goes so far out of his way to torment and goad his foes that he actively puts the president in significantly more danger by doing so. There’s literally a scene where rather than hunker down and wait 30 minutes for reinforcements to arrive, he has the Commander in Chief drive them head on into a street full of heavily armed terrorists.
And of course, what would a Hollywood action romp be without a few benign stereotypes about foreigners. France’s lazy president is blown up in his fancy little boat because flouting punctuality is in his genes and the Prime Minister of Italy gets blown up in a tower while skipping out on diplomatic duties to mack with his young, sexy mistress. Japan’s head of state just gets stuck in traffic on a bridge (actually not sure what the message is here, in any case he also gets blown up). As for the devious Arab (maybe) enemies of the United States, they are so devoid of any personality that they thankfully escape most truly offensive stereotypes (except that they are basically robots with an insatiable desire to kill Western leaders and blow things up).
Most of this stuff is pretty par for the course but listening to people clap at the end of this movie was just about the most surreal film-going experience I’ve had in recent memory. People didn’t clap for Star Wars when I saw it on Christmas day and they’re clapping for this half-baked piece of propagandist garbage. This is why I have no faith in our political system and why Donald J. Trump is going to be our president and we deserve it.