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New Release Review - LONDON HAS FALLEN

The US President goes on the run in London with his chief bodyguard following a massive terrorist attack.



Review by Eric Hillis (@hilliseric)

Directed by: Babak Najafi

Starring: Gerard Butler, Aaron Eckhart, Morgan Freeman, Radha Mitchell, Jackie Earle Haley, Melissa Leo, Robert Forster



Amazingly, its unabashed bigotry isn't actually the most offensive aspect of London Has Fallen - that lies with its half-finished CG effects. It's not a word of a fib when I say you could create more convincing explosions on an iPhone app, and a sequence involving helicopters resembles a cut scene from a '90s Nintendo game.



Back in 2013, two Die Hard ripoffs set in the White House battled for the box office. One, Olympus Has Fallen, was a gritty, violent and downright nasty piece of work starring Gerard Butler. The other, the larger budgeted White House Down, was a relatively breezy Roland Emmerich romp with Channing Tatum as the John McClane substitute. Surprisingly, it was the former that made the biggest profit; even so, I don't think anyone expected a sequel when it was announced.
This time, as with a host of recent Hollywood blockbusters (for tax reasons), the action has relocated to the UK capital, where the leaders of the world are gathered for the funeral of the British Prime Minister. The heads of state are led by US President Benjamin Asher (Aaron Eckhart), accompanied on the visit by his chief bodyguard Mike Banning (Gerard Butler). We also get a look at the Italian PM, who sneaks off for a bit of clandestine fumbling with a young model in Westminster Abbey. Meanwhile the French President swans up the Thames in a boat, telling his people to hold off for 10 minutes, seemingly in rush to pay his respects to Le RosBif. Those damn, disrespectful Europeans! Well they get their comeuppance when a massive terrorist attack wipes out a bunch of them, including the German Chancellor, who takes a bullet to the head, a moment which drew an enthusiastic clap from a member of my audience and may well become the most popular gif in Greece.
Don't worry though, the leader of the free world makes it out safely, thanks to the actions of Banning, who knew this was coming, damnit! With London sealed off and filled with terrorists (just like Miami in Chuck Norris's '80s trash-fest Invasion USA) Banning must guide the Pres through the devastated city, killing every brown person he comes across along the way.
Critics slammed Olympus Has Fallen for its nasty tone and in particular, its flag-waving xenophobia. With London Has Fallen it seems the screenwriters are saying "You pussies couldn't handle Olympus? Try this for size!", upping the problematic quotient with its vaguely Islamic terrorists, who Banning tells to go back to "Fuckheadistan" at one point while gleefully torturing one of their number. Later, when confronting a terrorist, Banning boasts that "The difference between you and us is that we'll still be here in a thousand years!" Who "you" and "us" actually refers to is left worryingly vague, and there's an awful lot of "you people" moments throughout the film.
Amazingly, its unabashed bigotry isn't actually the most offensive aspect of London Has Fallen - that lies with its half-finished CG effects. It's not a word of a fib when I say you could create more convincing explosions on an iPhone app, and a sequence involving helicopters resembles a cut scene from a '90s Nintendo game. The SyFy channel wouldn't air a production with effects this half-assed, and the last movie to get a cinema release with such shoddy FX was Lockout, which had the excuse of a comparatively minor budget and managed to be entertaining regardless. Many of the 'London' scenes here involve Butler and Eckhart standing in front of a painfully obvious greenscreen, while others appear to have been shot in the Bulgarian capital, Sofia, whose streets are tellingly continental. Cutaways to chaos in the UK capital are clearly taken from news footage of the 2011 London riots.
Often when a movie is this bad I feel sorry for crew members like the costume and production designers, whose good work ends up stuffed deep inside a turkey, but here it's director Babak Najafi who gets my sympathy. I'm not about to proclaim him the next Spielberg, but he does attempt to do something interesting here, and the climactic sequence, shot in a series of long, complex takes, roused me from my near slumber at that late point. Sadly, having London Has Fallen on his CV probably won't do him too many favours, and I can't help think Najafi, a former Iranian refugee, was hired simply so the producers could fend off accusations of Islamophobia. "What do you mean we're bigots? Our director is from Fuckheadistan!"
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