London has Fallen (2016)

(Video on Demand, June 2016) Nobody asked for this sequel (Upon learning that it was coming, I thought, “they made a sequel to the wrong white-house-in-peril movie!”) but now that London has Fallen exists, what can we learn from the experience? Perhaps, surprisingly, that it actually improves upon the admittedly dismal first film in the series: Without Antoine Fuqua at the helm, London Has Fallen tones down the excessive violence, swearing and mean-spiritedness. The result still isn’t particularly inspiring (this is, after all, a film where—ethnic slurs aside—Americans are criticized for indiscriminate drone-bombing, to which they triumphantly respond with even more drone-bombing) but it’s potent in the way generic action thrillers can be enjoyable as long as you don’t ask too many questions about American hegemony. There isn’t a whole lot of plot to London has Fallen—just Gerard Butler killing terrorists with jingoistic bon mots, Aaron Eckhart looking presidential and stock footage of London with tons of smoke. The film occasionally shows signs of life—most notably during a G7 assassination festival earlier on, and a mock single-take assault on a building later on. Most of the time, though, it seems happy to go through the motions of an eighties action film with implausibly well-organized foes, a bulletproof hero and plenty of unanswered questions. As dumb and borderline unpalatable as it may be, though, London Has Fallen does manage to stay on this side of the unacceptability line, which is more than the first film did. I’m not at all convinced that a third entry in the series is needed, but at least it ends on a higher note than if the first film had been allowed to disappear without a follow-up.

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