With a plot seemingly salvaged from the wastepaper bins of the 24 writers’ room, London Has Fallen director Babak Najafi has managed to cobble together what must be The Room of zealously patriotic terrible action movies; a construction that is in itself an act of terrorism against not only cinema but basic common sense. Absolutely nothing about the movie is worth your attention. So here are several adjective splattered paragraphs about why this is the first serious contender for the worst film of the year.
Setting aside for a moment the fact that few people were really crying out for a sequel to the largely forgettable Olympus Has Fallen, Gerard Butler here returns as lumbering oaf Mike Banning, chief of secret service for his bestie President Benjamin Asher (Aaron Eckhart, who has seemed more presidential in basically any other role you’ve seen him in). Two years after a botched G8 mission to blow up a bad guy – generic-as-they-come Middle Eastern fist-shaker Aamir Barkawi (Alon Aboutboul) – Asher finds himself en route to London for a state funeral as our Prime Minister has abruptly kicked the bucket.
Before leaving, Banning has a scene or two with his heavily pregnant wife Leah (Radha Mitchell, and don’t expect that subplot to have anything approaching a point), while also contemplating resignation (see baby subplot), but duty calls and so he jets off to Blighty where – uh-oh – all of London is brought to a comprehensively shoddy standstill by an army of terrorists apparently out to prove the point that in the UK our emergency services will hire fucking anyone. Just fuck background checks, basically.
Following an oddly dull and profoundly bad-looking array of CG explosions (honestly some of the worst digital effects in a major release in the last few years), Banning and Asher find themselves on the run in London (where, by the way, no one lives), getting into one scrape or another as Banning relentlessly drags his ward into as much oncoming danger as possible. Meanwhile, in Washington, Morgan Freeman phones it in as the VP even more than he’s been phoning everything else in for the last ten years. And all the while relentless on-screen text tells us who everyone is down to the fucking extras when it’s not pointlessly telling us the time. Is it 7pm? Great. Thanks for that.
Butler is terrible, showing the kind of range that makes Vin Diesel look like Daniel Day Lewis, grunting, swearing and stabbing his way through a bunch of dismal streets and underground stations. Eckhart isn’t much better. In fact he’s not better at all. His President Asher comes with no discernible personality whatsoever. It’s fitting really, seeing as the two of them are indistinguishable right down to the blood splatter patterns on their identical shirts and their impressions of the Christian Bale Batman voice. Benning’s just a bit stabbier.
And you’ve got to feel sorry for the head of Scotland Yard, who stands in the middle of his poorly lit CTU-like TV showroom looking a little bit confused, presumably as confused as the rest of us as to how something so profoundly stupid has managed to happen on what is probably his last day before retirement or something. There’s some bollocks about a mole you won’t be able to care less about; you’ll be far too dumbfounded by the sheer tonnage of shoehorned exposition and the truly appalling dialogue.
Example? Okay. So Benning and Archer make it through another nest of totally deserted streets to an MI6 safe-house (that everyone knows about, especially terrorists and that’s not explained either). They’ve already been through the mill a bit having been shot out of the sky and all that. Benning staggers into what I suppose we’ll call a parlour (there’s an open fire, obviously) and proclaims with mystifying intensity, “I don’t know about you, but I’m fucking thirsty.”
Right. Okay. You’ve heard worse? Fine. Worse than telling someone to go back to “Fuckheadistan”? Maybe so. But that’s just a nugget of the offenses perpetrated in this agenda-ridden cesspool of a film, one which doesn’t even manage to feel clumsy. It’s just lazy. A cheap, cheerless, nasty piece of work which hands Freeman a wretched closing speech, the underlying message of which seems to be “let’s give everyone a gun” only minutes after another inconsequential character has moaned pointedly about cuts to security budgets. This is a raw-meat chewing, breast-beating call to arms against any nation we don’t like the look of. And by any nation, I mean all of the ones where people have brown skin. I didn’t know they made porn especially for Donald Trump.
Needless to say this film doesn’t even compare to its mediocre predecessor, but more than that they’re not even faintly related in terms of shape, style of even concept. Like the strikingly similar (and also poor) White House Down, Olympus Has Fallen made ample use of the White House as a substitute for Nakatomi Plaza for a variation on the Die Hard mould. London Has Fallen abandons this (admittedly plagiarised) model for, well, some running about in the street interspersed with some badly choreography and poorly edited scenes of uninspired violence. And underpinning it with all the square-jawed, chin-tilted-skyward American bluster you can fucking take. And then a bit more.
The action genre has never been the home of highbrow nuance, I get it. But make a decent action movie and you’ve made a decent movie. I’m not sure director Najafi even knows what storytelling is, let alone the four people who managed to get their names credited as writers here. I ponder the moment when they all reached a consensus on the most chilling three words I’ve heard in a movie so far in 2016:
“Prime Minister Clarkson”.