Skip to main content

The fact is, every single one of these guys is a terrorist asshole until proven otherwise.

London Has Fallen
(2016)

(SPOILERS) Rightly deplored for its bare-faced xenophobia, the real mark against London Has Fallen is that it’s relentlessly, inanely leaden. For a movie full of explosive fury and awash with head shots (Mike Banning never misses, even when he’s not trying too hard), director Babak Najafi does a very good job ensuring no one cares. Say what you will about the also-highly-objectionable Olympus Has Fallen, it at least had forward momentum, pace and – in all its neck snapping glee – attitude. This is closer to a bland, unfussy 24 knock-off, pushing the same kind of hasty made-for-TV approach but with even less attempt to disguise its jingoistic fervour.


What the hell do they make Gerard Butler’s Mike Banning from? Bourbon (I’m guessing not the biscuits) and poor choices, it seems. Which is presumably the mantra of returning screenwriters Creighton Rothenberger and Katrin Benedict (both equipped with a great many teeth); also credited are Christian Gudegast and Chad St. John (the latter helping ensure the return of Xander Cage is something phenomenal, so satisfying the hundreds of millions who have been demanding it for more than a decade). 


Despite the unflinching manner in which evil terrorists pull out all the stops to blow the shit out of London and President Asher (Aaron Eckhart), we’re a good 20 minutes into this picture before anything of note happens, and then thoughts of how bereft it is are confirmed when an innocent child doesn’t blow up the German Chancellor with a flower (I mean, what a waste). It’s a small consolation that the said chancellor does indeed buy the farm soon after.


At least Banning is reliably, inconceivably politically incorrect, decapitating a terrorist on a pillar after the latter has the gall to swear at him (“Fuck me?!”) and his response to Asher noting he’s never seen a man strangled before (“I didn’t have a knife”) warrants a ghoulish chuckle. He even has some character development, since poor Radha Mitchell (poor, as in, has her career come to this?) is expecting his bibby (“Stay alive, you gotta see your kid” a dying Angela Bassett very unselfishly implores).


If London Has Fallen had a degree of self-awareness about how dreadful it is, it might have been moderately good fun. There is, in the mid-section, a certain unlikely, stark pointedness to its relentless distastefulness, taking in as it does the prevailing attitudes to those of Middle Eastern extraction (“The fact is, every single one of these guys is a terrorist asshole until proven otherwise”) and the old “no negotiations” attitude to terrorists (“That’s the sound of your brother dying” Banning announces to the leader; “Was that really necessary?” inquires the president. “No!” replies Banning – Ronnie would have approved). 


One might even see a commentary on the rise of ISIS from nowhere in Banning’s blasé “Why don’t you boys pick up your shit and head back to Fuckheadistan or wherever it is you’re from” (the bad guy, played by Alon Moni Aboutboul, is actually a Pakistani arms dealer). I half-hoped this would lead to the revelation that the terrorists were secretly working at the behest of bad seeds in the US government. If not Asher himself then Jackie Earle Haley. But no, the most shocking thing about London Has Fallen is that Haley plays a good guy!


The uptick doesn’t last long, however. London Has Fallen feels and looks cheap (it was quite cheap, so that’s alright, and going against the grain of sequels this year actually managed to make more than its predecessor worldwide), with a capital city so conveniently deserted, you’re half expecting Daleks to show up (now, that might have been interesting). Mind you, the prospect of a Prime Minister Clarkson would have anyone fleeing.


No one involved in this, pursuing a pay cheque, should feel very good about themselves, but one might suggest that it at least makes no fatuous plays towards moderation and seeing the “full picture” found in most hand-wringing War on Terror movies (whilst really reinforcing the current agenda). London Has Fallen isn’t terrible because of its political vacuity (at least, no more so than Olympus); it’s terrible because its ham-fisted in execution, dramatically incoherent and really quite boring. Except for that brief bit where Butler goes really kill-happy.


Agree? Disagree? Mildly or vehemently? Let me know in the comments below.

Comments

Popular posts from this blog

We live in a twilight world.

Tenet (2020)
(SPOILERS) I’ve endured a fair few confusingly-executed action sequences in movies – more than enough, actually – but I don’t think I’ve previously had the odd experience of being on the edge of my seat during one while simultaneously failing to understand its objectives and how those objectives are being attempted. Which happened a few times during Tenet. If I stroll over to the Wiki page and read the plot synopsis, it is fairly explicable (fairly) but as a first dive into this Christopher Nolan film, I frequently found it, if not impenetrable, then most definitely opaque.

She was addicted to Tums for a while.

Marriage Story (2019)
(SPOILERS) I don’t tend to fall heavily for Noah Baumbach fare. He’s undoubtedly a distinctive voice – even if his collaborations with Wes Anderson are the least of that director’s efforts – but his devotion to an exclusive, rarefied New York bubble becomes ever more off-putting with each new project. And ever more identifiable as being a lesser chronicler of the city’s privileged quirks than his now disinherited forbear Woody Allen, who at his peak mastered a balancing act between the insightful, hilarious and self-effacing. Marriage Story finds Baumbach going yet again where Woody went before, this time brushing up against the director’s Ingmar Bergman fixation.

You can’t climb a ladder, no. But you can skip like a goat into a bar.

Juno and the Paycock (1930)
(SPOILERS) Hitchcock’s second sound feature. Such was the lustre of this technological advance that a wordy play was picked. By Sean O’Casey, upon whom Hitchcock based the prophet of doom at the end of The Birds. Juno and the Paycock, set in 1922 during the Irish Civil War, begins as a broad comedy of domestic manners, but by the end has descended into full-blown Greek (or Catholic) tragedy. As such, it’s an uneven but still watchable affair, even if Hitch does nothing to disguise its stage origins.

Anything can happen in Little Storping. Anything at all.

The Avengers 2.22: Murdersville
Brian Clemens' witty take on village life gone bad is one of the highlights of the fifth season. Inspired by Bad Day at Black Rock, one wonders how much Murdersville's premise of unsettling impulses lurking beneath an idyllic surface were set to influence both Straw Dogs and The Wicker Mana few years later (one could also suggest it premeditates the brand of backwoods horrors soon to be found in American cinema from the likes of Wes Craven and Tobe Hooper).

I mean, I am just a dumb bunny, but, we are good at multiplying.

Zootropolis (2016)
(SPOILERS) The key to Zootropolis’ creative success isn’t so much the conceit of its much-vaunted allegory regarding prejudice and equality, or – conversely – the fun to be had riffing on animal stereotypes (simultaneously clever and obvious), or even the appealing central duo voiced by Ginnifier Goodwin (as first rabbit cop Judy Hopps) and Jason Bateman (fox hustler Nick Wilde). Rather, it’s coming armed with that rarity for an animation; a well-sustained plot that doesn’t devolve into overblown set pieces or rest on the easy laurels of musical numbers and montages.

My name is Dr. King Schultz, this is my valet, Django, and these are our horses, Fritz, and Tony.

Django Unchained (2012)
(MINOR SPOILERS) Since the painful misstep of Grindhouse/Death Proof, Quentin Tarantino has regained the higher ground like never before. Pulp Fiction, his previous commercial and critical peak, has been at very least equalled by the back-to-back hits of Inglourious Basterds and Django Unchained. Having been underwhelmed by his post Pulp Fiction efforts (albeit, I admired his technical advances as a director in Kill Bill), I was pleasantly surprised by Inglourious Basterds. It was no work of genius (so not Pulp Fiction) by any means, but there was a gleeful irreverence in its treatment of history and even to the nominal heroic status of its titular protagonists. Tonally, it was a good fit for the director’s “cool” aesthetic. As a purveyor of postmodern pastiche, where the surface level is the subtext, in some ways he was operating at his zenith. Django Unchained is a retreat from that position, the director caught in the tug between his all-important aesthetic pr…

He tasks me. He tasks me, and I shall have him.

Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan
(1982)
(SPOILERS) I don’t love Star Trek, but I do love Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan. That probably isn’t just me, but a common refrain of many a non-devotee of the series. Although, it used to apply to The Voyage Home (the funny one, with the whales, the Star Trek even the target audience for Three Men and a Baby could enjoy). Unfortunately, its high regard has also become the desperate, self-destructive, song-and-verse, be-all-and-end-all of the overlords of the franchise itself, in whichever iteration, it seems. This is understandable to an extent, as Khan is that rare movie sequel made to transcendent effect on almost every level, and one that stands the test of time every bit as well (better, even) as when it was first unveiled.

I think World War II was my favourite war.

Small Soldiers (1998)
An off-peak Joe Dante movie is still one chock-a-block full of satirical nuggets and comic inspiration, far beyond the facility of most filmmakers. Small Soldiers finds him back after a six-year big screen absence, taking delirious swipes at the veneration of the military, war movies, the toy industry, conglomerates and privatised defence forces. Dante’s take is so gleefully skewed, he even has big business win! The only problem with the picture (aside from an indistinct lead, surprising from a director with a strong track record for casting juveniles) is that this is all very familiar.

Dante acknowledged Small Soldiers was basically a riff on Gremlins, and it is. Something innocuous and playful turns mad, bad and dangerous. On one level it has something in common with Gremlins 2: The New Batch, in that the asides carry the picture. But Gremlins 2 was all about the asides, happy to wander off in any direction that suited it oblivious to whether the audience was on …

Old Boggy walks on Lammas Eve.

Jeeves and Wooster 2.5: Kidnapped  (aka The Mysterious Stranger)
Kidnapped continues the saga of Chuffnell Hall. Having said of 2.4 that the best Wodehouse adaptations tend to stick closely to the text, this one is an exception that proves the rule, diverging significantly yet still scoring with its highly preposterous additions.

Jeeves: Tis old boggy. He be abroad tonight. He be heading for the railway station.
Gone are many of the imbroglios involving Stoker and Glossop (the estimable Roger Brierley), including the contesting of the former’s uncle’s will. Also gone, sadly, is the inebriated Brinkley throwing potatoes at Stoker, which surely would have been enormous fun. Instead, we concentrate on Bertie being locked aboard Stoker’s yacht in order to secure his marriage to Pauline (as per the novel), Chuffy tailing Pauline in disguise (so there’s a different/additional reason for Stoker to believe Bertie and she spent the night together, this time at a pub en route to Chufnell Hall) and …

Do you read Sutter Cane?

In the Mouth of Madness (1994)
(SPOILERS) The concluding chapter of John Carpenter’s unofficial Apocalypse Trilogy (preceded by The Thing and Prince of Darkness) is also, sadly, his last great movie. Indeed, it stands apart in the qualitative wilderness that beset him during the ‘90s (not for want of output). Michael De Luca’s screenplay had been doing the rounds since the ‘80s, even turned down by Carpenter at one point, and it proves ideal fodder for the director, bringing out the best in him. Even cinematographer Gary K Kibbe seems inspired enough to rise to the occasion. It could do without the chugging rawk soundtrack, perhaps, but then, that was increasingly where Carpenter’s interests resided (as opposed to making decent movies).