Angel Has Fallen (United States, 2019)

August 22, 2019
A movie review by James Berardinelli
Angel Has Fallen Poster

It’s not surprising that Angel Has Fallen exists. The first film in the series, Olympus Has Fallen, performed well enough ($100M domestic; $170M worldwide) to justify a sequel. London Has Fallen opened three years later to a less enthusiastic reaction in the United States (where it garnered a tepid $62M) but a more generous international market developed (worldwide: $205M). Distributor Lionsgate likely doesn’t expect robust numbers from Angel Has Fallen in its home territory – the release date and lack of a strong advertising push hint at this – but its overseas interest should easily push the film into the black.

Angel Has Fallen feels like it was cobbled together with cliched action scenes and circumstances overused by the once-popular TV series 24. Angel Has Fallen tries hard (and often succeeds) to topple the Kiefer Sutherland program on the “preposterousness” scale. The movie’s lack of real-world credibility and rejection of Newtonian physics will come as no surprise to action movie fans. However, while something like a Fast and Furious sequel does this sort of thing with a wink and a smile, Angel Has Fallen adopts a too-serious approach. It’s hard to laugh at the idiocy of the movie’s Michael Bay-wannabe mayhem when it’s wallowing in solemnity. Changing the movie’s tone to make it more lighthearted might have resulted in a fun two hours. As it is, it’s the kind of slog that encourages much eye-rolling. (The movie belatedly turns jokey during a bizarre mid-credits sequence.)

Secret service agent Mike Banning (Gerard Butler) doesn’t use Danny Glover’s signature line (“I’m too old for this shit”), but he surely thinks it from time-to-time. Likely as a result of doing a few too many death-defying stunts in his previous two “save the President” campaigns, he suffers from spinal problems, migraine headaches, and a painkiller addiction. Nevertheless, he’s a tough sumbitch and is determined to soldier on, much as he tells his old buddy and trusted confidante (who would never, ever betray him), Wade Jennings (Danny Huston). The idea of taking a desk job, even if it is that of Secret Service Director, terrifies him.

Morgan Freeman’s Allan Trumbull is back for a third go-round and, as happened in London, he has been given a promotion. With Aaron Eckhart declining to threepeat, Trumbull is now President. He and Gerard Butler are the only returning alumni. Radha Mitchell, who played Banning’s wife in the previous installment, has been replaced by Piper Perabo, but is anyone going to notice the change? Freeman and Butler are in “phone it in” mode. Butler sets his features to “grimace,” puffs up his chest in an appropriate display of machismo, and goes about his business in a professional but unremarkable way. Freeman plays an unconscious man for most of the movie and, when Trumbull is awake, you’d be hard-pressed to tell the difference. The only one who seems to be having fun is Nick Nolte, whose wild-man character is a cross between Santa Claus (or David Letterman) and the Unibomber. The only instances when director Ric Roman Waugh (Shot Caller) lets down his hair and has a little fun are when Nolte is on screen.

The storyline postulates that a secret group of mercenaries attempt an assassination of the President. Their superior firepower annihilates his entire Secret Service contingent except Banning, who has been framed for the attack. Due to Banning’s quick thinking, the President survives, although he’s in a coma and conveniently unable to exonerate his protector. Banning, determined to clear his name, takes the “good man wrongly accused” mantle and runs with it.

Perhaps recognizing that big explosions, incessant gunfire, loud music, and a tractor trailer chase scene aren’t enough to support a two-hour running length, the screenwriters have thrown in half-assed attempts at social commentary on such wide-ranging issues as the opioid crisis, the difficulty soldiers face in re-acclimating to society, and uncaring nature of the military machine. Angel Has Fallen turns into a gung-ho orgy of violence with an anti-war subtext. Weird. It also offers a few none-too-subtle anti-Trump jabs, including a borderline-offensive caricature of a certain demographic that supports him.

The Fallen series has been in decline. I enjoyed the first film for its over-the-top mixture of escapism and tension. London Has Fallen was a step down, an inferior retread that offered little that was new or interesting. Angel Has Fallen tumbles into the lamentable category of what happens when a movie is assembled for no reason other than to make money, and when everyone involved is doing it for the paycheck. It’s a classic late-August release: hidden, ignored, and quickly forgotten. Angel Has Fallen; let’s hope he doesn’t get up for a fourth installment.

Angel Has Fallen (United States, 2019)

Director: Ric Roman Waugh
Cast: Gerard Butler, Morgan Freeman, Danny Huston, Nick Nolte, Lance Reddick, Piper Perabo, Tim Blake Nelson, Jada Pinkett Smith
Home Release Date: 2019-11-26
Screenplay: Robert Mark Kamen and Matt Cook & Ric Roman Waugh
Cinematography: Jules O’Loughlin
Music: David Buckley
U.S. Distributor: Summit Entertainment
Run Time: 2:02
U.S. Release Date: 2019-08-23
MPAA Rating: "R" (Violence, Profanity, More Violence)
Genre: Action/Thriller
Subtitles: none
Theatrical Aspect Ratio: 2.35:1