A threequel for which nobody seems to have asked, Angel Has Fallen is a new action film starring Gerard Butler as everyone’s favorite U.S. Secret Service agent, Mike Banning, who must thwart yet another Presidential assassination attempt. With the amount of things that have gone wrong in this timeline, one will be left wondering why Banning had not yet been fired. And with the quality of this movie, most will be wishing that he had.
This time around, the eponymous “Angel” that falls is none other than Banning himself, when he is framed for an assassination attempt on the President of the United States and must prove his own innocence and figure out who actually did it before they return to finish the job. Filled with conveniences, contrivances, and various other forms of lazy writing, this is certainly the weakest entry in an already mediocre series, though it will still likely entertain the fanbase of the prior two films.
Perhaps the most frustrating thing about this movie is that the action is choreographed poorly and even more poorly-shot. Any of the sequences that are shot at night or have a lot of dust are difficult to see. Also making the film more difficult to follow is choppy editing and lack of spatial geography. Because of this, it becomes extremely difficult to keep track of what is going on and who is where.
The thing about this movie that is absolutely perplexing, though, is its apparent obsession with Russia. For some reason, the five writers in this film thought it a good idea to throw in references to the Russian election-meddling scandal. Perhaps this is an attempt to make the movie appeal even more to the jingoistic conspiracy theory audience to which this film will likely appeal most, but it just seems in bad taste.
By this point, there really isn’t anything new to do with the Banning character. If one has seen the previous entries into the trilogy, goodwill towards the character will likely carry over into this entry. However, this movie fails to give the character a personality, even taking away that which was imbued to him in the superior and more entertaining second installment. A subplot involving the character’s dependence on pain medications is introduced and goes nowhere, adding very little to the character overall.
Butler is nearing the time in his career where his age is starting to show. At 49, he is at the age where he is about to get relegated to less demanding B-movies, nostalgia pieces, and even old folks’ action flicks (see Bruce Willis’s career post-2004). This seems to be a last-ditch effort for him to prove that he can still successfully lead a hard-hitting big-budget picture, and for the most part, it fails. Largely thanks to the lackluster script, Butler’s performance is almost entirely devoid of charm, and although this isn’t his fault, maybe it is time for him to just give up.
The best part of the film is undeniably Nick Nolte, who plays Banning’s father in a role that was unfortunately revealed in large part by the trailer. Nolte looks like he is legitimately enjoying his turn as the paranoid and off-his-rocker old man and takes part in what is one of the few truly entertaining moments in the movie. Unfortunately, his screen time is limited, although it is a welcome comedic relief.
Jada Pinkett Smith is also a welcome addition in her role as an FBI investigator, though she too doesn’t have enough screen time. Pinkett Smith seems to be the only person in the cast that realizes everything around her actually is, and as such, her over-the-top and hammy performance is quite enjoyable to watch. That said, the storyline to which she is relegated feels obligatory and underdeveloped.
The rest of the cast might as well not be there. As you would expect from the premise, Morgan Freeman’s President is comatose for a majority of the runtime. Danny Huston, Tim Blake Nelson, and Lance Reddick, all talented character actors, each have supporting roles of varying sizes, but contribute little more than background noise in the big picture.
On a technical level, one can’t help but wonder where the 80 million dollar budget went. The use of green screen is frequent and abhorrent. When a simple smoke or fog practical effect could have sufficed in a scene set in rubble, distractingly obvious green screens are used. The score by David Buckley is just as generic as the rest of the film, and even sounds outright ugly in portions.
Hopefully Angel Has Fallen will conclude the trilogy. Although the ending does leave room for further sequels, the arc is complete and has been since the first movie. Olympus Has Fallen was a bland thriller that didn’t really need a sequel, but one was made anyway. London Has Fallen surprised by embracing its campiness and providing legitimate fun. And Angel Has Fallen? Little more than a low-rent Mission: Impossible with less compelling characters and inferior action.
Angel Has Fallen opens in theaters on August 23.