There's no algorithm to measure it accurately, but London Has Fallen may just be the most daftly plotted action movie of recent years. Out-stupiding both Taken 2, which had characters navigating the streets of Istanbul using hand grenades, and Fast & Furious 7, in which Vin Diesel drove his car off a cliff on purpose, is no mean feat. It’s a film that doesn’t so much invite you to switch off your brain as take it out and dump it in the nearest popcorn box.
Instead of hiding in WHSmith until things blow over, Banning drags the President from one nest of villains to another.
The set-up picks up from 2013’s Olympus Has Fallen, with Aaron Eckhart’s President Asher back in the Oval Office and trusted cohort Mike Banning running his Secret Service detachment. The place has had a lick of paint and the dead North Koreans have been cleared off the front lawn, but world geopolitics hasn’t stopped throwing up foreign types with grudges. This time it’s a sharply suited arms dealer called Aamir Barkawi (Alon Aboutboul), who wants powerful heads to roll after the Americans send a missile to his daughter’s wedding.
The retaliation, when it comes, unfolds in a set-piece every bit as full-bore as the White House assault in the first film. Barkawi’s men have somehow infiltrated every branch of the police and armed forces and unmask themselves in time to wreak carnage on an assembly of world leaders. Think Die Hard 2’s handyman ambush, only with about 6,000 handymen. That policeman? Terrorist. The Queen’s Guards? Henchmen. You half-expect a lollipop lady to unsheaf an RPG. The Met’s lightning response involves Colin Salmon’s commissioner looking perplexed in front of a bank of monitors as London’s major landmarks explode in a flurry of bad CGI, before ordering the police to clear the streets “so we can tell who the bad guys are”. It makes you pine for the quiet command of The Bill’s Reg Hollis.
What made Olympus Has Fallen so effective, the Die Hard-like premise of two men trapped in a building filled with bad guys, just feels daft when there’s a whole city at stake. For a man whose sole job is to keep his boss alive, Banning seems set on scoring him a plot in Arlington. Instead of hiding in a WHSmith until things blow over, he drags Asher from one nest of villains to another to satisfy his craving for punching, stabbing and shooting.
Eckhart’s Prez, who spent the first movie chained to a railing, doesn’t fare a lot better. When his moment does come his reward is a bizarrely homophobic put-down. A killing machine made out of “whisky and poor choices”, Banning’s gruffly un-PC schtick doesn’t produce anything as quotable as his impromptu game of fuck-off in the first film and a lot that’s actively grimace-worthy. “Why don’t you pack up your shit and head back to Fuckheadistan,” he tells one dying goon. Someone clear space on Donald Trump’s DVD shelf.