Let’s summarize this “Fallen” action franchise, shall we? In “Olympus Has Fallen” (2013) and “London Has Fallen” (2016), Secret Service agent Mike Banning (Gerard Butler) saved the POTUS (played by Aaron Eckhart) from terrorist attacks.
In 2019’s installment, agent Banning saves a different POTUS (Morgan Freeman), while the president is out fishing on a lake, from an hellacious attack by drones that look like mini F-117A stealth fighter jets with face-recognition software.
Is it an excellent movie? Um, no. Is it a fun movie? Well, yeah, kinda-sorta. It’s a highly predictable boy movie, with fun stuff, like, you know, ‘splosions. And Nick Nolte playing Banning’s ornery coot of an off-grid-living Vietnam-vet dad is a hoot. Was it worth the $17.15 movie theaters were charging at the time? Noooo. Is it good enough to rent if you’re a bored boy/man? Absolutely.
Just eyeball the ridiculous 39-93 Rotten Tomatoes skew: The “deplorables” think it’s cool; the collective film critic snoot-fest disdainfully sniffs at it. The people know what they like. I know what I like too: I savor an excellently concussive ‘splosion, even when I’m yawning at the rest of it. Especially when I’m yawning at the rest of it.
Banning’s feeling his age. Secret Service agents, like NFL players, have a short shelf life, and Banning would appear to be headed toward an opioid addiction to deal with the cumulative effects of the occupational hazard of getting severely dinged up.
Then, President Trumbull (Freeman) informs Banning that he’s going to promote him to Secret Service director. Well, that’s nice, but then again, Banning and his wife (Piper Perabo) have an adorable girl child, and Banning’s not getting any younger.
Then they go boating and fishing and drones rain down on all the president’s men like borax upon cockroaches. I love that phrase. I stole it from Leo Tolstoy: “The women began to rain down bombs onto the army, like borax upon cockroaches.” As previously pointed put, these are excellent ‘splosions.
A horde of Secret Service agents die. Basically everyone’s dead except the POTUS (because Banning saved him) and Banning himself. However, the president, being in his 80s, is in a coma and therefore can’t say who it was who saved him.
Uh-oh. FBI agent Thompson (Jada Pinkett Smith) discovers Banning’s fingerprints in lots of places they ought not to be, and she and the Veep (Tim Blake Nelson) think it’s very significant that the drones recognized Banning’s face and did not ‘splode him.
Therefore, Banning (also knocked senseless) comes to, handcuffed to a hospital bed, and finds himself a prime suspect, accused of a variety of treasonous things, such as Russia-collusion.
And so the rest of the movie goes into “The Fugitive” mode, where Banning has to run away and figure it all out before turning himself in to the authorities. More or less.
Why It’s Tolerable
Basically, you’ve got an excellent cast in a B-movie. Nick Nolte, Jada Pinkett Smith, and the excellent portrayer of weaselly characters—Tim Blake Nelson. Then there’s the excellent portrayer of seemingly benign but ultimately corrosive characters—Danny Huston.
Huston plays an old war buddy of Banning who’s now a military contractor in desperate need of a contract. (It occurred to me that Huston’s got the hair and movie résumé to play Jeffrey Epstein when that inevitable movie occurs.)
Smack in the middle of the movie, Banning, looking for help, hunts down his old dad, who’s hiding out in West Virginia in a high state of Vietnam-vet paranoia. Dad was a “tunnel rat,” you see. Most people are unaware that the tunnel rats were “vertically challenged,” so they could fit down in the subterranean Vietnamese tunnels built by the slight-of-stature Viet Cong. Nick Nolte is 6-foot-1, so that’s just stupid, but then, one could not call ”Angel Has Fallen” a realistic movie.
Suffice it to say, pops has all sorts of fun stuff rigged; there’s tripwires and such in them thar hills. Excellent ‘splosions ensue. And Nolte can be hilarious when he feels like it. Dad wasn’t there for his son back in the day, but he makes up for it now. It’s the same ne’er-do-well-dad-who-makes-good-later-on role that he played in “Warrior.”
These “Fallen” movies provide violent, boy-pleasing action, funniness, and a high body count but with minimal gore. Not exactly cartoony, but also not Tarantino’s Brad Pitt character in “Once Upon a Time in Hollywood” smashing skulls to smithereens: It doesn’t have the “I need to now take a shower” factor.
Banning is, of course, a ridiculous one-man wrecking crew prevailing in the face of outrageous odds. He’s like a superhero. Maybe that’s why this mediocre franchise isn’t going away. Everything is superheroes now. “Angel Has Fallen” even has a post-credit-roll scene, just like the Marvel-verse.
‘Angel Has Fallen’
Director: Ric Roman Waugh
Starring: Gerard Butler, Morgan Freeman, Jada Pinkett Smith, Piper Perabo, Danny Huston
Running Time: 2 hours
Release Date: Aug. 23, 2019
Rated: 3 stars out of 5