"We're still at war, Plissken. We need him alive."

"I don't give a fuck about your war... or your president."

Angel Has Fallen

If you enjoy the HAS FALLEN saga, now in its third chapter, you don’t need to read me disrespecting it in this review. I have no quarrel with you. But as much as I appreciate the existence of any ongoing theatrically released rated-R action series in this day and age, I have never achieved a worthwhile level of enjoyment from these fucking things.

What I remember from the first one, OLYMPUS HAS FALLEN, is that the action was messy enough to inspire me to invent the action comprehensibility rating (ACR) system, but there was one part where Melissa Leo defiantly recited the Pledge of Allegiance to terrorists about to execute her, and I liked that. What I remember about the second one, LONDON HAS FALLEN, is that the action scene that people claim was good made no impression on me and I was disgusted by its moronic jingoism and casual murder of civilians (which some tried to convince me was supposed to be sarcastic, but I couldn’t see it).

The first two were location-based premises (the White House is attacked, London is attacked), this one makes the fair assumption that if we’re still watching these we’re okay just following legendarily amazing Secret Service agent Mike Banning (Gerard Butler, DRACULA 2000) whether he goes to a new city that gets attacked or not. “ANGEL” refers to him, a “guardian angel” who has “fallen” by being blamed for an attempted assassination of the president and having to go on one of those old fashioned fugitive runs to prove his innocence.

I was correct in my belief that Aaron Eckhart had been president in the first movie, but I can’t really take credit for that since I wasn’t 100% sure I wasn’t thinking of the Channing Tatum one. I guess the office holder who ties the series together is Allan Trumbull (Morgan Freeman, UNLEASHED), who was the Speaker of the House, then Vice President, now President, presumably Super President in the next one. Banning is protecting him during a fishing trip when a swarm of drones attacks, leaving both of them unconscious and everyone else dead. The FBI, under the command of Special Agent Helen Thompson (Jada Pinkett Smith, DEMON KNIGHT, filling one of the slots for overqualified supporting cast members), finds a van that has been left behind with evidence implicating Banning in the attack.

Also every once in a while Banning pops a couple of pills and gets blurry vision, so you know there is some drama here, some inner turmoil, some characterization. Nah, I shouldn’t make fun of that. He has sustained injuries from whatever action stuff he must’ve done in the other ones, and it has turned into a painkiller addiction, and there is no fucking way he should be allowed anywhere near the job of protecting the president. This is a good thing to address. (I bet it won’t be mentioned in the next one though.)

An immediately annoying thing about this chapter: it seems convinced you’re gonna spit out your coffee when it “reveals” things you obviously figured out long before. For example, the big shootout at the beginning. When they stop fighting, take off their helmets and laugh I think we’re supposed to go “What? Why aren’t they— wait a minute, you mean to tell me those weren’t real bullets? It was just practice? And that’s why it’s in this enclosed obstacle course thing and they’re all wearing the same gear? Ha ha, You got me, bro! You got me!”

One note about this sequence. Since it was obviously an exercise I thought Banning was a fucking asshole for throwing a guy down a set of stairs. Then I was happy when the guy confronted Banning for being a fucking asshole and throwing him down the set of stairs. However, the movie pulls a TOP GUN and pretends like that guy is a wet blanket who should be ashamed of himself for trying to interfere with how awesome Banning is. Also the guy later proves to be evil, so Banning got lucky like when the Toxic Avenger killed that old lady and she turned out to be a sex trafficker.

The practice space belongs to Banning’s old war buddy Wade Jennings (Danny Huston, CLASH OF THE TITANS), who he loves so much, because they’ve been through the shit together, and they’re like brothers, and only someone who’s been through it could really understand what it’s like and every single person watching figures out within 30 seconds that he’s gonna be the villain. But don’t tell the movie that.

And then when comically dweeby Vice President Kirby (Tim Blake Nelson, FANTASTIC FOUR) nervously, reluctantly, really really hoping this is only temporary, takes the oath of office, of course we know he’s the mysterious distorted Cobra Commander voice heard directing Jennings’ evil operation. And this is confirmed when the vice president calls a press conference to announce that the intelligence agencies have unanimously concluded that Secret Service agent Mike Banning and Russia were behind the attack. Still, a later scene goes from the distorted voice to the VP in his office like it’s a big reveal.

From what I can remember, the action is probly a little better than in the other two. The assassination attempt is easily the most interesting sequence, with the swarm of armed drones that security initially mistakes for bats. Director Ric Roman Waugh (FELON, SNITCH, SHOT CALLER) and/or stunt coordinator Greg Powell (THE FOREIGNER) seem to really love filming bodies being flung into the air by explosions. Often on fire. Always kinda cool, though quickly becoming repetitive.

I think there was also some truck crashes or something. Fairly generic. The climax is a mano-a-mano between our hero and villain on a rooftop surrounded by obvious green screen, perhaps as a tribute to THE PROTECTOR 2 or THE ROOM. It would help if the personal conflict was really involving, because the fight is not the kind of thing where you believe these men are great warriors. It’s just two tired guys with way too much gear on clumsily hitting and stabbing each other in close up for a minute. But I did sincerely like the aftermath, when Jennings is dying of blood loss, tells Banning “I’m glad it was you,” and they sit together waiting for the end.

I guess I’d have to consider the politics of this one less horrendous than those of part 2, because it doesn’t glorify and swagger about American military might – his goal is even to stop a war. At the same time, they clearly designed it to keep delusional Trump worshippers on board. Sure, there’s one reference to Russia interfering with the 2016 election, but the story revolves around false accusations of “Russian collusion.” What a silly idea! It would never happen! When everything is cleared up there’s a news report that says tensions have cooled and the great and wise President Trumbull is FORREST GUMPed into footage from the G20 so that he turns and smiles at the real Vladimir Putin. I wonder if they told Freeman they were gonna do that to him?

There are two reasons I bothered to write a review of this. One is completism. I reviewed the other two, might as well keep going. The better reason is Nick motherfucking Nolte. When Banning is on the run he goes into the woods to find his long estranged father Clay, played by Nolte. He clearly is meant to be Living Off the Grid and his cabin, shaggy beard, manual typewriter and discussion of a manifesto imply that he’s a Unabomber type. (Of course after we get the idea it’s explicitly pointed out in dialogue.)

They fight a little bit about Clay being a drunk who abandoned Mike and his mom, then Clay spots an approaching team of killers on his security cameras so they go into his secret underground tunnel system (like RAMBO: LAST BLOOD!) and pull a bunch of ropes that self-destruct his house and massacre the attackers with an admirably ludicrous number of fiery explosions.

That stuff is pretty funny, but what actually makes the movie worth existing is that trademark Nolte By Nature professionalism. He treats it the same as he would if he was working with James Ivory or Scorsese or Malick again. In his later years he’s mastered the weathered, broken, regretful, ornery sonofabitch with the messy hair, the pickled liver and the tearful breakdown, so he’s gonna play a million variations on it and it’s gonna be humane and moving and perfect every god damn time, even in this part 3 to a mediocre and lowbrow series. He has a scene where he yells with that ragged voice about being sent to Vietnam and Mike being sent to Iraq and I swear to you for a minute it’s heartbreaking. Likewise the scene where they part ways and Clay yells for Mike to wait and then can’t bring himself to say he loves him or he’s sorry or whatever so he just nods. Beautiful.

And at the end when the action movie shit is wrapped up and there’s still an epilogue about father and son mending their relationship I actually did care about it. Keep in mind this is in a movie where they recast the hero’s wife from Radha Mitchell to Piper Perabo and I only noticed because of online reference materials.

(For some reason there’s also a comical mid-credits scene where Banning and his dad go to a sensory deprivation tank together.)

Like the rest of the series, this one has a story credited to Creighton Rothenberger & Katrin Benedikt (EXPENDABLES 3). This time the screenplay credit goes to Robert Mark Kamen (THE KARATE KID, LETHAL WEAPON 3, THE FIFTH ELEMENT, KISS OF THE DRAGON, THE TRANSPORTER, TAKEN, COLOMBIANA) and Matt Cook (TRIPLE 9) & the director. Waugh is another stuntman turned director – he worked on THE BLOB, THEY LIVE, ROAD HOUSE, HARD TARGET and more before helming a few features including well-regarded DTV movies FELON and SHOT CALLER. I’ll probly check those out eventually (as well as his 2001 debut about stuntmen, IN THE SHADOWS), but they don’t have Nick Nolte in them. This does. I’ll give it that.

This entry was posted on Tuesday, December 3rd, 2019 at 11:28 am and is filed under Action, Reviews. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can skip to the end and leave a response. Pinging is currently not allowed.

20 Responses to “Angel Has Fallen”

  1. The Undefeated Gaul

    December 3rd, 2019 at 12:03 pm

    Danny Huston being the villain was clear already from the trailer – why else would they cast that guy? Same way I could tell Liam Neeson would be the traitor just by watching the trailer of MEN IN BLACK INTERNATIONAL. They really should stop giving certain actors villain roles (especially secret ones, as the casting by itself is already giving away the twist) because I’m getting sick of these safe choices. So please let it be known: no more villain roles ever again for Danny Huston, Javier Bardem, John Malkovich, Christoph Walz, guys like that.

    Except Gary Oldman though, give him as many villains as you want, he always gives it his all and makes every single one memorable. I even remember him as the bad guy in that TWILIGHT inspired Little Red Hiding Hood film, he was fucking great in it.

  2. I feel the low point of this site was the never ending back and forth on whether or not part two was meant as satire.

  3. Gaul: This is known as The Christopher Plummer Paradox: The only reason to put Christopher Plummer in your movie is if he’s the secret villain, yet the very presence of Christopher Plummer makes it impossible to keep the identity of the villain a secret.

  4. Ehh. It’s a pretty common trope to have the REAL bad guys trying to start a war between the good guys and the bad guys that the movie doesn’t want to offend. James Bond had a couple movies about trying to avoid a war with Soviet Russia, The Sum of All Fears did the same thing, and I recall 24 doing a few storylines about Jack Bauer trying to prevent America from going to war with Muslim countries. I don’t know if I’d read “actually, those guys are our best friends!” into it. Just that war is bad and resolving conflicts peacefully is better.

  5. The Undefeated Gaul

    December 3rd, 2019 at 1:16 pm

    Mr. M – wait, is that a KNIVES OUT spoiler? Don’t answer that, I haven’t seen it yet (am planning to go next week).

    Until now my money was on Ana de Armas, as people keep saying “it’s not just a standard latina role, it’s something substantial!”

  6. If I hadn’t seen the Swedish original I would definitely have expected Christopher Plummer to be the villain of THE GIRL WITH THE DRAGON TATTOO. As it was SPOILER ALERT Stellan Skarsgard was hardly a big leap of the imagination. The Swedish version had lovely Peter Haber – he’s the voice of a cartoon bear – playing the villain which was a real curveball. Come on, David Fincher!

    I’m probably never gonna watch ANGEL HAS FALLEN and I’ve not seen the trailer but I knew Danny Huston was the villain by the time I’d read Danny Hu…

    But I’d add John Lithgow to actors who definitely should play more villains, because (a) he can do mega with the best of them and (b) sometimes he might just be the nice old guy he seems to be.

    As to bodyguards being assholes during training drills, it’s never been entirely clear to me that Jet Li’s character doesn’t actually kill a bunch of people during the opening training exercise of THE BODYGUARD FROM BEIJING/THE DEFENDER. Did everyone get out of the limo before they blew it up? How did they squib up everyone he shot?

  7. Kaplan – Yes, but don’t you think the “framed by ridiculous claims of colluding with Russia” storyline is meant to appeal to people who believe that happened to Trump? And that having Freeman give a big wide loving grin of friendship and admiration to a real life journalist-murdering authoritarian goes further than “peace is good”? You can read it as innocent but I think you have to be very charitable about their intentions and also assume that everyone involved was wildly naive and uninformed about current events.

  8. There was a nice, Christoph Waltz related fake out in (Mild spoiler for that movie) ALITA. I really appreciated that. Also it took me almost until the end of THE 2ND OF THE NEW OF THE PLANET OF THE APES until I realized that Gary Oldman will not suddenly betray everybody.

  9. I guess I didn’t notice any pro-Trump anything in Angel Has Fallen since Piper Perabo is pretty famously liberal and even got arrested protesting Brett Kavanaugh at his hearing in spectacular fashion. I know she didn’t write the movie but I figured she wouldn’t want to be associated with anything even remotely defensive of Trump.

    As for the movie itself, kinda like how Transformers 5(?) The Last Knight is easily the “best” of the franchise in so many ways, but that’s also what makes it kinda dull and unmemorable, this one is a giant leap forward in terms of character development and drama, but has none of the nasty mean-spirited gonzo violence and xenophobia that put the first two on the map. Basically, I enjoyed this one but recognize if this was the first in the series nobody would have been clamoring to make sequels. Btw, remember when this was supposed to be Die Hard on Air Force One? (Basically uh…Air Force One)?? Like, that was the official plot synopsis on IMDB and everywhere for years! And then out of nowhere the trailers reveal it’s just another Bourne/Fugitive clone and I wonder if there was budget problems or the Air Force One scenario was never the plan? Btw, Kaplan reminds me that this now makes it 3 for 3 where the Has Fallen series lifts it plot wholesale from 24 (One season had African terrorists led by Tony Todd(!) taking over the White House, and another had Jack battling Arab terrorists all over London whose big plan is to execute the President on Live TV)

    Also: I’m going to go ahead and give another hot take that nobody will take seriously – I think Nick Nolte’s performance in A Walk in the Woods is an all-timer. Yes, you can argue he’s just playing himself (or more accurately, playing his DUI mugshot), but he’s so lived in, so committed to imbuing every piece of his performance with his own specific speech cadence and posture and everything, that it truly transcends acting and goes somewhere else. No, I wasn’t high when I watched that movie and I’m not high now, but I truly feel his performance is up there with Heath Ledger’s Joker where you can tell the actor literally forego-ed acting and just straight up became the character. I know people give the movie shit because it ended up being more of a wacky low brow comedy than the Oscar bait you figure it would be, but it has some really good drama and pathos along with the plentiful dick and fart jokes. It’s one of my favorite movies of the ’10s and Nolte is magnificent in it.

  10. Waugh shot the night scenes without lights so it would look like real night. Mission accomplished. You can’t see any of the action in those scenes.

  11. Zero interest in this franchise, but I’m all the way #TeamNolte. I really came to appreciate him in the underlooked MOTHER NIGHT, and then loved his unhinged performance in HULK, and he was so awesome in WARRIOR, as well. It’s so funny how he was boxed into this heartthrob leading man type mold by the pre-internet popular culture industrial complex (see, e.g.,

    ), and then he goes off the reservation, like, fuck this noise, you guys, I’m gonna be an old weird mash-up of the Dude and my DOWN AND OUT IN BEVERLY HILLS character. Good for him.

  12. Gaul: When I made that comment, I forgot Plummer was even in KNIVES OUT, which I haven’t seen. Now that you mention it, though, my pet theory (which I developed while watching the trailer before every goddamn movie I’ve seen for the last three months) is that Plummer faked his own death in order to instigate a real-life version of one of his author character’s elaborate murder-mystery plot. I have no evidence to support this theory other than my belief that the presence of Christopher Plummer is, in itself, probable cause.

  13. The Undefeated Gaul

    December 4th, 2019 at 8:08 am

    That’s exactly where my mind went after reading your earlier post – the whole “the victim faked his death” thing is always a serious possibility in this type of thing. It would be pretty lame and unoriginal though, so I’m hoping Johnson didn’t go in that direction. Maybe he cast Christopher Plummer because he knew about the Christopher Plummer Paradox, and the big surprise twist is actually that no, he’s actually properly dead!

  14. I watched this for maybe 20 minutes, then I gave up, I think that was after the fairly solid drone attack scene. I just didn’t give a shit, and nobody else in the production seemed to care, either.

    I did watch the first two movies from beginning to end. The first one was the best, even if it might have some silly politics. At least it’s entertaining.

    So I guess I can’t really comment on this movie. I haven’t seen it. But for the first 20 minutes it just seemed so incredibly boring and generic. If it would actually be really awful and offensive, maybe I could enjoy it on some level. But it’ just… There.

  15. On the topic of the Noltenaissance, he also voices a weird little puppet in THE MANDALORIAN (which is kinda dumb but entertaining). At first I thought it was actually him in makeup because the alien sort of resembles him, but I don’t think it is.

  16. Yeah, they did a great job of making the eyes look like Nolte. I love that character. And he’s involved in a training montage.

  17. Vern–I don’t know if you have to give them that much benefit of the doubt. It’s also a movie where the villains are white men trying to steal power from a black president, where the hero dismissively overcomes a group of militiamen who try to stop him, and where the villainy is largely done by a private military contractor trying to make a profit. You could say that’s the filmmakers covering their ass while they present a pro-Trump message, but isn’t it more likely they weren’t trying to send much of a message either way?

  18. I’m one of the few that preferred London Has Fallen over Olympus because there were not many civilians killed. I thought Olympus was too nihilistic and dark with his execution of hostages and the killing of civilians. I never really noticed that there were civilians killed on-screen (just in explosions) in London. I thought it was more fun in the way it killed nation leaders in various fun and ways associated with stereotypes of that country. You didn’t have hostages get executed instead you had Banning and the President getting chased around London, and you Banning was thirsty as fuck.

    Angel Has Fallen seem to be holding back, especially in the head stabbing department. It doesn’t go too over the top with nationalism, and Banning actually seems to have an arch, but a rather small one. I think it’s interesting that Mike Banning is the action hero with the most stable personal life. He really has no more drama and then an average person. Probably less. The tragedy of losing the President’s wife doesn’t make him drink or give him trouble at home. He just gets a desk job. Saving the president and watching 100’s of his Secret service co-workers getting massacre doesn’t really give him nightmares when London starts. He is about to be a dad, and life is just better than ever for him. This is the first time his wife actually gets to do something, even though it still just worrying about Mike when shit happens to him.

  19. I agree, they’re putting a mix of things in there on purpose. But I just don’t think you make a movie with a “Russian collusion hoax” in it unless you either believe Trump’s horse shit or want to appeal to people who do. And I can’t respect somebody that does either of those things. The second option is maybe even worse.

  20. I saw this but have no real impression of it three months later. I had a general sense that they were trying to wind back from the proto-Trumpian chest thumping of LONDON HAS FALLEN, but I was also a bit distracted when I saw it and don’t think I thought much about the Russian stuff. I think I interpreted the Putin moment as being a wry “watch your step” smile from Freeman, but I also didn’t remember that even happened until I read this

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