Hollywood’s most ridiculous franchise has been revived.
That would be the “Fallen” series. You know, the one where doughty Secret Service agent Mike Banning (Gerard Butler) previously pulled the presidential fat out of the fire in 2013’s “Olympus Has Fallen” and 2016’s “London Has Fallen.”
Battling North Korean terrorists, who besieged the White House and took the president hostage in “Olympus” (reducing the executive mansion to rubble in the process), and Muslim terrorists, who briefly captured the president and trashed significant sections of London in the “London” installment, our man Mike seems like the embodiment of bad juju when it comes to protecting the prez. And you wonder: How does this guy keep his job?
One imagines the following conversation in the Oval Office. President: “So who’s the lead agent in my protective detail today?” Aide: “Mike Banning, sir.” P: “Nooo! Get him away from me!” Followed by Mike’s reassignment to the Secret Service’s newly created office in Point Barrow, Alaska. That ought to keep him out of trouble.
But nooo-body has apparently learned their lesson about the guy. So Banning is back on duty in “Angel Has Fallen.” And sure enough, catastrophe ensues. A mass attack of killer drones puts the president (Morgan Freeman, taking over the role from Aaron Eckhart) in a coma and Mike in handcuffs, accused of masterminding the high-tech assassination attempt.
He’s been framed, of course, by mysterious forces who don’t remain mysterious for long. Director-screenwriter Ric Roman Waugh and co-writers Robert Mark Kamen and Matt Cook barely bother to keep the audience guessing as to who’s up to no good here. Instead, the main emphasis is on orchestrating the expected car chases, gunbattles and massive explosions. Waugh, a former stunt man, has an affinity for scenes in which flaming blown-up bodies are sent soaring skyward.
With seemingly everyone on the planet hunting him, Banning has to somehow evade capture and single-handedly bring the evildoers to justice.
Butler looks a little puffier this time, as though Banning’s past adventures have taken a physical toll on him. And the writers have given the character certain impairments — insomnia, PTSD, etc. — that make him a bit more vulnerable than in the earlier movies.
Freeman’s president spends a lot of the picture in a comatose state but, when he’s up and about, he’s calm, quiet-spoken and dignified. You know, presidential. Or at least as presidents have been customarily portrayed in movies in the past.
A bearded Nick Nolte is on hand, playing Banning’s paranoid, government-hating Vietnam vet dad; Tim Blake Nelson is weaselly in the role of the vice president; Jada Pinkett Smith is snappish as a tough FBI agent; and Danny Huston is smoothly villainous as Banning’s one-time best buddy turned baddie.
“Angel Has Fallen” plays out exactly as you would expect from a potboiler of this type. No surprises here, other than that it exists at all. It’s the kind of movie one expects to be released at the shank end of summer. Time to turn the page to fall.
★★ “Angel Has Fallen,” with Gerard Butler, Morgan Freeman, Jada Pinkett Smith, Tim Blake Nelson, Piper Perabo, Nick Nolte, Danny Huston. Directed by Ric Roman Waugh, from a screenplay by Waugh, Robert Mark Kamen and Matt Cook. 114 minutes. Rated R for violence and language throughout. Opens Aug. 23 at multiple theaters.