Sunday, September 29, 2019

Angel Has Fallen: A Review


I will make this clear: Angel Has Fallen, the third film from an increasingly oddball and unexpected franchise, is nowhere near good. It isn't clever. It isn't original. It's silly bordering on stupid, with a baby managing to out-act almost the entire cast.

So yes, I thoroughly enjoyed Angel Has Fallen, though whether for the camp value or the mindless romp I cannot fully pin down.

Secret Service Agent Mike Banning (Gerard Butler) is still guarding the President, though there's been a change in administrations with the President now being Alan Trumbull (Morgan Freeman), formerly the Speaker of the House in Olympus Has Fallen and Vice President in London Has Fallen.

Mike is secretly suffering from physical and emotional wounds which he keeps secret from both the President and Leah (Piper Perabo), Mike's wife and which he self-medicates with copious amounts of pills. In the good old American tradition of 'I ain't got time to bleed', Banning keeps at it until an assassination attempt on the President is made.

Worse, Banning is framed for the attempted assassination. With Trumbull in a coma, Vice President Kirby (Tim Blake Nelson) is in command. He is also in cahoots with the real assassins, paramilitary company Salient Global and its chief Wade Jennings (Danny Huston), who happens to be Banning's BFF. It's all part of a conspiracy to essentially have a war with Russia and give lucrative contracts to Jennings as mercenaries.

Banning manages to escape, albeit with the accidental help of Salient Global, and now must both clear his name and save President Trumbull while avoiding FBI agent Helen Thompson (Jada Pinkett Smith). This requires some help from his woodsman father Clay (Nick Nolte), with whom Mike has not reconciled. It ends in a spectacular hospital battle where Trumbull, now out of his coma, is still in danger.

Image result for angel has fallenANYONE who thinks he or she is going to see an intellectual exploration into the tortured soul of Mike Banning when seeing Angel Has Fallen is a fool unto him/herself. This is clearly a dumb action film, one that delights in being big, loud, chaotic and obvious.

Anyone with an ounce of brain knows who the villains are. It's so patently obvious that the only real suspense is waiting for both Jennings and Kirby to reveal themselves, and I think that was by and large the point. Angel Has Fallen is not a film to think on or over, and that's not a condemnation. It's an acknowledgement of reality. Angel Has Fallen is open about its own outlandishness and as such one should recognize it isn't even going to try to be anything else.

In short, Angel Has Fallen is a hoot: silly, loud and even comical both intentionally and not, but at least it knows it. Granted, it does try to add some elements of 'character' and 'drama' via Banning's health and Daddy issues, but those get forgotten or tossed whenever we need more explosions.

Gerard Butler is almost 50 and it is beginning to show. While his weathered look adds a touch of weariness to Mike Banning, it is starting to look more odd to see him outrun, outlast and overpower single-handed a platoon of men half his age. Whatever promise he had early in his career is almost extant, but Butler knows his way around weapons.

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Freeman was blessed by being in a coma for most of Angel Has Fallen, so this was a nice paycheck that required little of him. He makes a fine replacement for Aaron Eckhart, a fine actor who had enough sense to decline a third round of being beat up. Perabo also replaced the original Leah, Radha Mitchell, and despite the rather thankless role of 'wife in danger', I think she did quite well.

Smith was also in an equally thankless role as the FBI agent who let's say won't make a return appearance in any future Has Fallen feature. She did a good job with a nothing role and worse, the film opted to eliminate a potentially good counterweight to Butler's Banning to where a teaming might have done wonders.

I think we will always look fondly on Nolte's bonkers Clay, full of paranoia and growls. Huston shows he can use firepower and yell like the best of them. These roles are so beneath the collected talents of just about everyone involved, but again no one is pretending that Angel Has Fallen is anything other than action-packed and mindless entertainment.

The best performance came from the child/children who played their daughter. She cried on cue and had almost an uncanny ability to react to everything. Whether you think it is good or bad that a baby managed to do better acting than those deemed 'professional actors' I leave to you. 

At this point, should we actually get another Has Fallen film, we might just as well make Mike Banning the President and get it over with. Angel Has Fallen, even for the schlock that it is, has issues. Sometimes the action scenes are hard to follow with the jumbled editing and at two hours seems longer than it should be.

On the whole however, Angel Has Fallen is clear about what it is: a big, loud bombastic film that is not meant to be taken seriously on almost any level. Embrace the outlandishness of it all and you'll have a good time.


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