So far, 2016 hasn’t been the best year for Gerard Butler.
Just a week after the outrageously awful “Gods of Egypt” tanked at the box office, the Scottish actor is in yet another clunky, superfluous action movie. “London Has Fallen” is remarkable only because of how much worse it is than its inane predecessor, 2013’s “Olympus Has Fallen.”
Once again, Butler plays Secret Service agent Mike Banning, who’s all brawn when he’s protecting President Benjamin Asher (Aaron Eckhart), but gets all googly-eyed when he’s with his pregnant wife, Leah (Radha Mitchell). She’s two weeks away from giving birth to their first child, and Mike’s pained expression shows how badly he wants to stay home. But he has a job to do, by god, so off he goes to London with the president for the funeral of the British prime minister, who has unexpectedly died.
You can see where this is going: A head of state suddenly dies, but before anyone finds out whether the death is, you know, part of a terrorist plot, every leader imaginable from around the globe flocks to Britain. They end up as sitting ducks in a painstakingly orchestrated attack.
We meet them all – the Canadian prime minister, the French president, Italy’s head of state (who’s with a much younger woman, naturally) – just in time to see them all get blown to smithereens in various fiery blasts. Just about every London landmark also falls victim to the attacks, except for the London Eye, so tourists can still spend way too much to see the skyline.
Of course, because of Mike’s clever last-minute schedule switch, one man will not fall prey to these radicals: the president of the United States.
The terrorist behind the massacre is Barkawi (Alon Aboutboul), No. 6 on the FBI’s most wanted list. We know this because the secretary of defense (Melissa Leo) informs the Situation Room of his identity right before the vice president (Morgan Freeman) launches into an awkward summary of Barkawi’s misdeeds. Let’s all hope that the officials in the real Situation Room are more tuned in. Here, we get a bunch of clowns who do little beyond gasp and cover their mouths every time some new horror pops up on the television screens.
Back in London, Mike and the president are on the run, trying to evade teams of terrorists on motorcycles. The terrorists want to capture the president in order to decapitate him on live television, streamed around the globe.
You won’t have to contemplate this grisly scenario too deeply because the assault on your senses never stops: bad guys getting stabbed in the eye, the stomach, the neck; good guys getting peppered with machine-gun spray. And all the while it’s impossible to comprehend what’s happening because of the ham-fisted editing.
Maybe director Babak Najafi realized a movie needs more than nonstop havoc. So he inserted a bizarre quiet interlude in the middle of the action so that Mike and the president can bond over fatherhood. It’s an artless grab for our heartstrings. At least, unlike the rest of this loud, dumb bloodbath, it’s good for a laugh.