Guarded duty

Ac­tion flick de­liv­ers the blood and guts, but stays con­ser­va­tive in all other de­part­ments.

The Star Malaysia - Star2 - - MOVIES - re­view by DAVIN ARUL en­ter­tain­ment@ thes­tar. com. my

Lon­don Has Fallen

Di­rec­tor: Babak Na­jafi

Cast: Ger­ard But­ler, Aaron Eck­hart, Mor­gan Free­man, An­gela Bas­sett, An­ton About-boul, Char­lotte ri­ley, Colin Salmon, Jackie Earl Ha­ley, robert Forster, Waleed Zuaiter, radha Mitchell

BEN­JAMIN Asher ( Aaron Eck­hart), the pri­mary pro­tectee of th­ese ( What­ever) Has Fallen movies, could just be the un­luck­i­est com­man­der in chief in his­tory.

Or if you’re the glass- half- full sort, then he’s go­ing to be blessed with a pretty lu­cra­tive book ca­reer af­ter step­ping down as Pres­i­dent of the United States – a mem­oir on par with Grant’s. ( I mean Ulysses S. Grant – not Fitzger­ald Grant, the prez on Scan­dal, whose mem­oir would prob­a­bly be on the porn shelf.)

Af­ter al­most get­ting killed while help­ing to pre­vent his coun­try from be­com­ing a ra­dioac­tive waste­land in 2013’ s Olym­pus Has Fallen, Asher is now tar­geted along with var­i­ous other world lead­ers by a mas­sive ter­ror­ist at­tack dur­ing the state fu­neral of the Bri­tish Prime Min­is­ter.

And the event wouldn’t be com­plete with­out Se­cret Ser­vice su­per- agent Mike Ban­ning ( Ger­ard But­ler), the for­mer Army Ranger who helped save the free world and its, er, leader back when Olym­pus fell.

He’s now back on pres­i­den­tial guard de­tail, shad­ow­ing the big cheese ( al­most) ev­ery­where, but is mulling an early “re­tire­ment” be­cause wife Leah ( Radha Mitchell) is about to de­liver their first child.

Then, nurs­ery paint schemes, nanny-cams and res­ig­na­tion let­ters take a back seat when Asher is com­pelled to at­tend the state fu­neral af­ter the Brit PM dies. All of Bri­tain’s al­lies will be there, mak­ing the sit­u­a­tion a se­cu­rity night­mare. So of course, and luck­ily for Asher, his best agent has to go too.

The scope is a lot broader this time out, with the ac­tion tak­ing place across, over and un­der Lon­don.

But with­out the ser­vices of di­rec­tor An­toine Fuqua – an ace at im­bu­ing slick, even over- the- top ac­tion with gravitas – Lon­don Has Fallen is now brought to us by Iran- born Swedish di­rec­tor Babak Na­jafi, mak­ing his English- lan­guage fea­ture di­rect­ing de­but.

Na­jafi han­dles the ac­tion well enough but the cir­cum­stances here are nei­ther as in­trigu­ing nor as high- stakes as they were in Olym­pus. So a lot of it looks rather by- the- num­bers.

The di­rec­tor and his party of writ­ers also take the safe route story- wise, avoid­ing po­ten­tial political, ide­o­log­i­cal and religious back­lash by hav­ing the cen­tral vil­lain be a vengeance- ob­sessed in­ter­na­tional arms dealer rather than ... you know, the global vil­lain du jour and all its ac­com­pa­ny­ing com­pli­ca­tions ( come on, that never both­ered the pro­duc­ers of 24).

We learn from an early scene that this bad dude, Aamir Barkawi ( An­ton About-boul), be­lieves in the prin­ci­ple that vengeance must be pro­found.

So you can count on it that when he does make his move, for rea­sons made known as the film pro­gresses, that it will be a dev­as­tat­ing strike. ( Al­though some of the tim­ing and over­all or­ches­tra­tion of his at­tacks don’t quite add up.)

But of course, the re­venge- crazed Barkawi, his hirelings and his sin­gle- minded son Kam­ran ( Waleed Zuaiter) prob­a­bly never counted on Ban­ning to se­ri­ously mess with their plans.

So for a large part of the film it’s all about Ban­ning go­ing above and be­yond to keep Asher alive while fac­ing a horde of bad guys.

But­ler and Eck­hart make a good pair of screen bud­dies, breez­ing through this se­quel like they just slipped right back into their char­ac­ters’ skins as if no time at all had passed be­tween films.

Sadly, al­most ev­ery sup­port­ing per­former is wasted – noth­ing on par with Melissa Leo’s coura­geous Sec­re­tary of De­fense stand­ing up to the vi­o­lent ter­ror­ist from the pre­vi­ous movie.

Here, she joins ev­ery­body else in just hang­ing around dimly lit com­mand cen­tres look­ing per­plexed as Barkawi’s peo­ple pull one rug af­ter an­other from un­der their feet.

It’s only Mor­gan Free­man ( who prob­a­bly in­sisted on hav­ing at least half a thing to do as the US Vice Pres­i­dent) and Char­lotte Ri­ley ( as Ban­ning’s MI6 con­tact) who ... er, at least have half a thing to do. Each.

If vis­ceral thrills are all you’re look­ing for, Lon­don Has Fallen will fill your quota for a cou­ple of days. Apart from that, with hints of tan­ta­lis­ing de­vel­op­ments or plot twists that never ma­te­ri­alise, it’s as hol­low as a politi­cian’s prom­ise.

— Pho­tos: rain­film

‘ Don’t worry, Mister Pres­i­dent – if the au­di­ence can buy the crazy $ h* t that went on in the first movie, they won’t make a fuss about us walk­ing away from this he­li­copter crash.’ ‘ Wow, I had no idea you could clear the whole board of can­dies by com­bin­ing a colour bomb with an­other colour bomb.’

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