By Kim Hughes
It’s absolute folly, not to mention a smidge disingenuous, to walk into the third installment of the Fallen franchise about indestructible U.S. Secret Service agent Mike Banning expecting anything other than violence writ stupidly, outlandishly large.
As we’ve seen in predecessors Olympus Has Fallen (2013) and London Has Fallen (2016), these are movies where heroes are archetypes, villains are Fox News caricatures, and all manner of shit blows up. It’s entertainment as fast food, though perhaps slightly less objectionable than the horrors perpetuated by KFC.
Having already battled terrorists from South Korea and the Middle East, Russia is the obvious next go-to for the nefarious chicanery propelling Angel Has Fallen, the angel of the title referring to soon-to-be disgraced Banning (Gerard Butler), the guardian angel of Morgan Freeman, now U.S. president and exuding the kind of level-headed calm denizens of the real world can only dream about.
The film opens with a massive action sequence (natch) where our man Banning — armed to the teeth but broadcasting bare-knuckled savagery as a birthright — is not having his very best day. We soon discover that Banning has pain, real physical pain, man, and not the existential crap plaguing pussies in contemporary Bond movies. Swallowing pills by the handful, lying to his doctors, a diminished, exhausted Banning is just hanging on.
The timing is not propitious as our man is the obvious candidate for director of the Secret Service when the incumbent steps down. The possibility is a mixed blessing; more responsibility but also a move away from the front lines where, Banning is reminded by his old army buddy Wade Jennings (Danny Huston) — now operator of a militia-style training camp and, with any luck, benefactor of lucrative government contracts — the pair flourish as lions. Lions don’t sit at desks, though apparently they do gush about their feelings over scotch with the wife and kid. But I digress.
Anyway, cut to President Trumbull on a fishing trip with an army of security personnel, including Banning. Suddenly, drones fill the sky and everybody is slaughtered… except POTUS and Banning. At hospital, both are in comas. When Banning awakens from his, he is handcuffed to his bed and a pesky FBI Agent Thompson (Jada Pinkett Smith) is all up in his face about DNA evidence and dodgy offshore accounts. Banning, it seems, has conspired to kill POTUS, then abscond with a bunch of money.
Cue needle screeching across vinyl. Mike Banning, the bestus, most smartest, and resourceful agent ever — who protects world leaders from labyrinthine assassination plots created by evil masterminds from the most bad-ass nations of Earth — left behind DNA evidence in, like, an abandoned van left illegally parked? Nobody else thinks that’s kind of smelly?
So of course, falsely accused Bannon is on the run, evading both the Secret Service and FBI as well as the real no-good-niks — maybe Russians, maybe his old lion pal Wade, maybe someone else — behind the assassination plot that killed Banning’s colleagues and rendered President Trumbull permanently snoozed. Like the press notes say, Banning must “clear his name, keep his family from harm and save the country from imminent danger.” As one does on a Tuesday.
The wild card is Banning’s off-grid survivalist old man (a worse-for-wear Nick Nolte) whose one major face-off with Butler, notwithstanding their corny exposition, offers the film’s sole genuinely giddy moment albeit in a scene teeming with explosions and firepower, as with the rest of the film. But still: crazy and heavily armed old men living alone in the woods are funny… am I right?
Things devolve from there, until the end, when the filmmakers essentially march in with brooms and buckets to tie everything up neatly with bows: Banning’s drug dependence, his conflict over the director’s job, his rocky relationship with dad. Honestly by the end it’s all so tidy you’ll want to tip someone. It needn’t be anyone standing to recoup on the backend.
Angel Has Fallen. Directed by Ric Roman Waugh. Starring Gerard Butler, Morgan Freeman, Jada Pinkett Smith, Lance Reddick, Tim Blake Nelson, Piper Perabo, Nick Nolte, and Danny Huston. Opens wide August 23.