Angel Has Fallen Review

If this had been the second film, audiences may have actually been looking forward to a third.

by Casimir Harlow
Movies & TV Review

61

Angel Has Fallen Review

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The sequel that nobody asked for after the last one, Angel Has Fallen, gives Gerald Butler once last shot at delivering old school throwback thrills in the vein of Olympus Has Fallen.

2013's Olympus Has Fallen was an unexpectedly enjoyable R-rated Die-Hard-in-the-White-House effort (the first of two, curiously, alongside the tamer White House Down), reminding us of some of the best entries in the sub-category - Passenger 57's 'on a plane', Cliffhanger's 'on a mountain', Speed's 'on a bus', Sudden Death's 'in a stadium' and Under Siege's 'on a warship' - despite the fact that it came almost a decade after the last one of them, at a time when old school action movies were a struggling sub-genre.

R-rated action has seen something of a resurgence since, not least thanks to Keanu Reeves' genre-defining John Wick series, leaving Butler's 2016 sequel, London Has Fallen, something of a disappointing mess, and nowhere near as gloriously satisfying as its predecessor (think: Taken 2). Now, another three years later, we get the supposed conclusion to the Fallen "trilogy", which Butler personally promises will be darker and more character-driven than the previous two entries. All fans really want it to be is coherent and not too cliched though, with boat-loads of well-choreographed action. And, somewhat surprisingly, that's exactly what you get.

It's hardly groundbreaking, but Angel Has Fallen gets the job done, and a whole lot better than London did

The story is immediately familiar - and initially worryingly so - to another action trilogy capper, Taken 3, in that it has heroic Secret Service Agent Mike Banning (Butler), who pretty-much single-handedly saved the last President's life, twice, framed for an attack on the current President (Morgan Freeman), and forced to go on the run to clear his name.

Thankfully there's a decent amount of meat they add to these bare bones and the promise of the film being darker and more character-driven than its predecessors is, technically, delivered upon, albeit primarily because the last two didn't really care a jot about character or 'darkness'. Here, there's a little more thought put into it, affording a backdrop not wholly unlike Liam Neeson's Non-Stop, with a premise that suggests Banning is burnt-out, addicted to painkillers, and struggling after the aftermath of his last two tours saving the day. His wife (Piper Perabo) wants him home more to bring up their young baby, and his old comrade in arms (Danny Huston) appears to be worried for his health too.

Hell, even Freeman's President (a role which the actor gets to almost literally sleepwalk through for much of the runtime, but which actually does benefit from a bit of that old spark in his ancient bones) starts to notice that Banning is struggling, and when he ends up on the run, our hero has to dig deep to find a way out, reopening long-closed but still unhealed family wounds to give himself a chance to get back in the game and clear his name. It's hardly groundbreaking, but Angel Has Fallen gets the job done, and a whole lot better than London did.
Angel Has Fallen
There are several impressively staged action sequences - they blow a lot of stuff up in this movie, and there are only a few frames of dodgy effects in the final act, which is impressive considering the budget and no-name director. And even if you thought it all looked a little silly in the trailer (*cough* drones *cough*) it looks much better on the big screen, making a veritable threat out of ostensible paper planes, mainly through just blowing people up. Ambush sequences are nicely staged and only one shark-jumping truck moment is nicely curtailed by segueing into the scene-stealing cameo of the entire show: Nolte.

You have to give Butler credit, despite a middling career he's committed to a slew of roles that often call upon him to yell, take himself very seriously, and kill people - it's become his thing, This is SPARTA-style - and this gives you a measure of what to expect from pretty much any Butler film, give or take, with many of the understandable grievances against the last film (aside from plot, effects, and acting) being that he wasn't really given much opportunity to do the satisfying violence thing he does so well (apart from in the film's admittedly well-staged finale). Here's he's much more in the thick of things, and game for all of it, and it's much more satisfying as a result. But he's also got more character to chew on, and he does it well, wearing the weary veteran role with aplomb. Nonetheless he's still outclassed by Nolte. Yes, a pushing-80 Nick Nolte absolutely turns the movie around midway through, giving a whole bunch of proper laugh-out-loud moments in scenes of absurd (but, again, satisfying) pyrotechnics, and basically stealing the show, like he's stepped off the set of Warrior and still has a thing or two to say about regret, whilst also remembering one or two things he learnt in 'Nam.

Whilst this isn't quite the brutal, lean throwback gem that Olympus proved to be back in the day, it's a whole lot closer to the mark

It's a much-needed respite in a 2 hour action epic which builds to an Alamo-esque finale that, again, provides some well-staged action, with Wick's Lance Reddick on hand to add a little to the mix, and Danny Huston chewing his words - and the scenery - in his own inimitable way, giving the film an added dimension that arguably the last two have lacked in this particular department. And Nolte. Did we talk about Nolte? If so, he should be mentioned again. In fact, the film is almost worth seeing just for Nolte's scenes alone, garnering enough goodwill in the mid-section to gear up for a grandstanding (if OTT finale) and forgive a slightly cheesy mid-credits sequence; maybe even going along with it for one final giggle.

If you (understandably) jumped off after the mess that was London Has Fallen, then you should rest assured - whilst this isn't quite the brutal, lean throwback gem that Olympus proved to be back in the day, it's a whole lot closer to the mark, possibly even bringing a hint of character depth to the battlefield. And, hell, if you actually forgave London its mistakes, you could probably easily throw an extra mark on the score to this one and bump it to an 8; it's certainly unlikely to disappoint fans of both previous movies. And if they'd made this film as the first sequel, more people may have actually been looking forward to a third, rather than just being ambivalent towards it.

Scores

Verdict

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7
7
AVForumsSCORE
OUT OF
10

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