This is the second Gerard Butler movie in as many weeks, and unfortunately, I think I may have had enough of him for the year.
Olympus Has Fallen was released almost exactly 3 years ago (3/22/16), and was one of two bad-guys-take-over-the-white-house movies that year. It was the better of the two and was directed by Antoine Fuqua – a really great action director. Basically, North Korean baddies managed to sneak into the White House, take the President hostage, and attempt to get nuclear codes from him as the Vice President and head of the Secret Service yell at Secret Service officer Mike Banning through a speaker phone while he sneaks around the White House trying to save the President. Spoiler alert – he does. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=l_ePFctnIqo
This time around – the movie opens with a drone strike on a weapons dealer in Pakistan. The drone misses the dealer, and his sons – but wipes out his daughter and everyone at her wedding. That’s going to cause him to hold a big-time grudge.
Two years later, Banning is expecting a baby with his wife, and is about to resign from the Secret Service. He has just settled in for a week’s vacation to finish up the nursery, when the White House informs him that the Prime Minister of England has just died, and all the heads-of-state are headed to London for the funeral. The President wants Banning there with him, so they head out along with Lynne Jacobs – head of the Secret Service, who in a terrible Dead-Meat-From-Hot-Shots-moment accepts Banning’s request to be the baby’s godmother. There’s an establishing shot – which is either clever or insulting, I couldn’t really decide which – where we see where each of the heads-of-state are prior to the funeral. Banning has stepped up the President’s schedule, so he’s already at St. Paul’s cathedral. The Italian Prime Minister and his wife are touring Westminster Abbey, the Japanese Prime Minister is in his car on Tower bridge, stuck in traffic. The French President is on a boat on the Thames, preparing to head to the cathedral, and the German chancellor seems to be hanging out in front of Buckingham Palace. MI5 is just talking about how terrible the logistics of this situation are when suddenly – coordinated attacks take out everyone where they are – missing the U.S. President, because of the schedule change.
Banning and Jacobs get the President to a helicopter that will take him to Air Force One, but they are shot down – and (spoiler alert) Jacobs doesn’t make it, but you knew that would happen after the godmother discussion earlier in the movie. Banning escapes with the President on foot as Barkawi – the weapons dealer – announces his plan and intentions – which is basically vengeance on all the countries who authorized the hit that missed him but got his daughter. His oldest son, Kamran, plans to execute the President live and stream it everywhere as a show of power since they missed him in the initial hit.
Banning meets up with a MI6 agent at her safe house – and they prep to find the mole in Scotland Yard – and get the President out safely. That goes wrong – the bad guys get him, and Banning has to Die-Hard his way into a building to get him back.
This one is directed by Iranian director Babak Najafi, who previously did Easy Money 2 – Hard to Kill. To give you some clue about this movie - Antoine Fuqua directed the first one, but declined to direct this one because he did not like the script. The movie is directed just fine, I actually didn’t mind the sequence where Banning enters the building that the bad guys are barricaded in, it wasn’t a single shot – but was set up to look like one and it felt a bit like a video game. It also felt very 80s-action-movie, but not in a good way like the Expendables do. In this one, it just felt sloppy and cheesy. Sample line from the aforementioned scene where Banning says he’s going alone into the building, “Are you crazy? There’s over 100 guys in there!?” “Well, they should have brought more guys.” Groan. It’s certainly not as polished as the first one, which I think is mainly just the experience of Fuqua over Najafi. The cast was again – surprisingly good for a movie of this level - but the really good people are not given enough to do.
- Gerard Butler can still not do a passable American accent, but is certainly action capable. He felt way more brutal in this movie than in the first, and I’m not sure that was a good addition. There’s a scene in which he stabs one of the bad guys, then twists the knife so that the guy’s brother can hear him scream over the radio – not for any information or anything, just to do it. The president asks if that was really necessary, and Banning responds, “No.” It just seemed like an odd escalation for a guy we’re supposed to believe wants out to spend time with his baby, and in the first movie was smart and concise.
- Aaron Eckhart plays President Benjamin Asher, and from time to time looked more action-movie ready than Butler. He certainly was running better than him in the opening jogging sequence.
- Radha Mitchell is back as Leah Banning – and really has nothing to do but sit around her house being worried about Mike.
- Waleed Zuaiter plays Kamran Barkawi – who is bound and determined to get to the President and machete him on screen to make a point.
- Alon Aboutboul plays Aamir Barkawi – the mastermind who pulls all the strings from far away.
- Colin Salmon plays a similar role to what he played in all the Brosnan Bond movies as Chief Hazard – head of Scotland Yard – he spends most of the movie astounded by what happened and scrambling to figure out how to stop it, fix it, and find the mole. I really could have used more of him in this movie, but I can always use more of him. Honestly, if he hadn’t already been in the Bond movies, I would have been pushing for him to be James Bond.
Patrick Kennedy plays MI5 Officer John Lancaster who is all about helping out – until he isn’t.
- Angela Basset gets more action in this one than in the first as Lynne Jacobs. She’s not in it very long, but was certainly fun while she was there. It made me want more action movies from her – I think she could pull that off.
- Morgan Freeman has been promoted in this one – he was the Speaker of the house in the previous movie, but is VP Trumball now – and does it the same way, from the office room where he commands everyone. Watch for his first scene, which seems to be pieced together because he wasn’t really there – as a Freeman-ish body double walks away from Butler in the background after their conversation.
- Jackie Earle Haley pops up as DC Mason, an advisor in the ‘war room’.
- Robert Forster and Melissa Leo reprise their roles from the first movie – mostly just cameos as advisors in the ‘war room’.
- Charlotte Riley plays Banning’s contact MI6 agent Jacquelin Marshall. She helps shelter Banning and the President while they are on the run, and finds the mole who helped the baddies from the inside.
Overall it wasn’t terrible, but I felt like it was terribly heavy-handed. That’s an odd thing to say about an action movie, but there’s certainly a way to do things smoothly and slickly, and this one really felt clunky in parts. Banning’s role was just a bit over the top – and there was way too much of the ‘kill-em-all’ mentality, which felt out of place, since the bad guy made it very clear early on that this was his plan, and he alone was responsible for all this – as opposed to a larger, generic war with a group, country, or people. I felt that could have been portrayed a little better. I also wanted more interaction with all the other countries who had been hit. The movie made a huge show of all the heads-of-state getting wiped out – why not assemble a team of the most elite agents from each country to come in and go after the villains instead of Banning Die-Hard-ing it? That would have been really interesting, and then that group could become this elite UN team that could get their own spin-off. Hey – it practically writes itself.
I gave Olympus Has Fallen 7 out of 10 – giving this one 5 out of 10. Gained points for the team that tried to help Banning, then lost points for Banning not needing the help.
Bonus Fun - Butler on the Late Late Show -