As action goes, the Fallen series has shot, stabbed and belted its way into the hearts of cinema goers and fictional presidents but this time it's personal.
Gerard Butler is back with gunplay mixing up the series usual knifings. Image Roadshow.
In 2019, all action movies are for dads, but some action movies are more dad-friendly than others. The John Wick series is for cool dads; Liam Neeson’s made a second career out of being the dad that dads wish they were. Over the last few years Gerard Butler has carved out his own niche appealing to the dads who still read Tom Clancy novels; he’s going to kill a lot of bad guys, but he’s going to have a topical geopolitical reason for it.
The Fallen series began with the White House under attack from terrorists (it was the White House siege movie in 2013 that didn’t star Channing Tatum and Jamie Foxx), then moved onto every major world leader under attack from terrorists, so obviously for the third instalment there was only one way to go: This Time It’s Personal.
Secret Service agent Mike Banning (Butler) is up for promotion. He’s also dealing with headaches and stress from all the killings he’s been doing. But being Banning, he refuses to take the easy way out, which means he’s still on the job when a drone-attack on the President (Morgan Freeman) during a fishing trip kills 18 other agents and leaves the Prez in a coma. Obviously Banning’s been set up – but by whom?
It’s theoretically possible that some viewers might not figure out what’s going on the second Danny Huston turns up as Banning’s old army buddy turned struggling military contractor, but it’s no spoiler to reveal that Banning is soon on the run and trying not to kill anyone until he can figure out who it is he has to kill.
At just over two hours this film has a lot of time to fill and while Banning’s wife (Piper Perabo, replacing Radha Mitchell) and never-before-mentioned survivalist dad (Nick Nolte, doing his now-standard impression of a bear) get a bunch of screen time, they’re largely around to make it look like there’s more to the character of Banning than just a murder machine. And during the brief moments when Butler is given something to work with, it’s clear he’s a charming and entertaining performer.
Then it’s back to the killing.
Part of the dubious appeal of the previous two films was how gleefully politically incorrect they were (in the second Banning tells a terrorist to ‘Go back to fuckheadistan’ then he kills him). Thankfully, this replaces that with the usual money-driven sinister backstabbing conspiracy stuff; what new director Ric Roman Waugh doesn’t replace is Banning’s fondness for stabbing bad guys.
Usually action heroes avoid using a knife – that’s more a bad guy move – but Banning’s stabby ways have always been a weird trademark of this series and once again he manages to brutally shank a bunch of foes in between the more typical gunplay. Waugh does bring a new fondness for blowing things up to the franchise (there’s a drinking game in counting the number of times nameless guys get flung into the air by explosions), and overall the action is solidly filmed, if rarely all that inventive once it gets past ‘Let’s make some stuff explode’.
Outside of the action, this suffers from some bloat early on when it’s trying to pretend it’s a serious thriller with dialogue like ‘Tell us about the encrypted folder we found on the dark web’, and all the stuff about Banning’s physical issues might have been worthwhile if it had made one second’s worth of difference when it came to him killing bad guys.
But the scene that sums this up best comes early on when Banning comes home from murder practice and his wife asks him to take a shower. “You smell like gunpowder,” she says. He snuggles in close and smirks “You know you love it”.
3.5 stars ★★★☆
Angel Has Fallen
Director: Ric Roman Waugh
USA, 2019, 121 mins