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First Olympus fell, then London fell. Now Angel has fallen. As naming conventions go this franchise sure likes to think outside the box. In all other respects these films have traditionally thought as much and as hard as a sleepwalker. Angel has Fallen looks to shake up the formula ever so slightly by basing its premise not around a place but… a man.
The third instalment finds secret service agent Mike Banning, (Gerard Butler) who is just as important as the White House or London, being framed for an assassination attempt on the US President. The hunter becomes the hunted etc. and so he must go on the run, working to prove his innocence while protecting the commander in chief from afar. This is all delivered with a straight, even solemn face. Coming on the heels of the goofy, meatheaded, pseudo meta humour of Hobbs and Shaw it might hope to act as a sour palate cleanser for action movie fans.
While the tone is so ‘gritty’ as to be comic there are moments when watching this thing actually manages to become fun. An attack by an overwhelming swarm of buzzing, dive bombing drones is genuinely scary and effective. Seeing the smirking president give someone a dressing down is another fun moment as is the teaming up of Banning with his estranged, militia nut dad (Nick Nolte) which results in a grenade heavy Home Alone standoff in the woods with wave after wave of mercenaries. The problem is that these moments feel few and far between. The attempts to ground such a ridiculous premise (for the third time) feels misguided.
Beyond that, many of the other set pieces just aren’t very fun. They’re too focused on cutting fast through the pained expressions of cardboard characters and tactile sounds to register as anything much. After a while so many punches and gunshots blur into one grey, grunting mass.
Plot-wise, when Danny Huston is playing the trustworthy best friend you immediately know what the score is. Banning’s constant headaches and wooziness are mentioned but then never alluded to when it might matter. He’s a mannequin wearing the clothes of a character. It’s hard to tell if this makes the film annoyingly predictable or enjoyably pulpy. That said, Angel has Fallen does clip along, never lagging and always holding out hope that around the next corner there might be a moment of spectacle worth paying attention to.
It might not exactly be a good film. The thought of actually paying money to see it seems like a push. It is, however a huge leap forward from what came before. That’s obviously not high praise but the last episode, the truly awful London Has Fallen, had set the bar so low that maybe the only way was up. At least now they’re trying.