There should be a term — maybe even a prison term — for hacks who keep making the same junk movie over and over again. How about sucker punchers? Let me illustrate. In 2013’s Olympus Has Fallen, a North Korean paramilitary block invades the White House to capture the President (Aaron Eckhart). Only brave secret service agent Mike Banning (Gerard Butler) can save the day. Spoiler: He does. In the just-released London Has Fallen, a Pakistani terrorist block invades London to blow up a meeting of world leaders including the American President (Eckhart, again). Only secret service agent Banning (Butler, again) can save the day. Spoiler alert: He does.
Do audiences take some kind of perverse pleasure in being conned by filmmakers who hold them in contempt? Look how many times Liam Neeson profited by misplacing his daughter in the Taken franchise. But, really, all other paycheck sellouts should bow to the crass exploitation at work in London Has Fallen. Iranian-born director Babak Najafi, who not surprisingly staged something called Easy Money II, botches the action sequences so crudely, consistently and cynically that he makes Michael Bay look like Kurosawa. As White House muscle Banning, Butler squints and flexes to ab-shame his enemies from a country this USA jingoist calls “Fuckheadistan.”
Who can resist this stuff? Sadly not Morgan Freeman, who signed on to play the American Veep. Freeman basically stands around in D.C. staring blankly at a video screen along with staffers played by Melissa Leo, Robert Forster and Jackie Earle Haley — good actors who should know better. And, oh, the Islamaphobic dialogue from ugly Americans. “You have to take out their families, when you get these terrorists, you have to take out their families. When they say they don’t care about their lives, you have to take out their families.” Oh wait, apologies to screenwriters Creighton Rothenberger and Katrin Benedikt, Donald Trump said that. They’d never have the nerve. But you get my point.
This movie is a toxic stew of rampant xenophobia that truly believes audiences will line up to watch a computer-generated London, from Parliament to Chelsea Bridge, go down in a storm of bloody shootouts and muddy megapixels. Prove me wrong, people. Make American movies great again. You can start by boycotting this one.