Angel Has Fallen review – Gerard Butler's pyrotechnics fizzle out

In the latest overblown instalment of the Fallen franchise, Butler’s beleaguered secret service agent goes on the run, seeking out unintelligible dad Nick Nolte

Is Gerard Butler hellbent on remaking every last action movie of the 90s? The thought arose during last year’s Den of Thieves, in which Butler bellowed his way through the Al Pacino role in a cut-price Heat; it was followed by Hunter Killer, a Crimson Tide-ish sub thriller in which Butler tried something close to character work. With that project having sunk commercially, he’s returned to his signature role of Mike Banning, patriot, dad and secret service agent par excellence, as seen in Olympus Has Fallen (2013) and London Has Fallen (2016).

Angel, which sets a weary Banning scrambling to prove his innocence after being framed for a drone attack that leaves President Morgan Freeman comatose, qualifies as a twofer: it’s Gerry doing In the Line of Fire and The Fugitive. As with many of the star’s recent projects, it’s been compiled with minimal quality control, insistently cancelling out its better ideas with turns for the derivative.

The budget stumps up decent pyrotechnics but sloppy green-screen work, again flagging what American action cinema lost after the 2008 financial crash and the near simultaneous retreat of the moneyed Jerry Bruckheimer, while the deeply retro indifference to women is such we’re just not meant to notice Banning’s wife is now Piper Perabo, in for the unavailable Radha Mitchell. The conspiracy business, meanwhile, yields zero surprises from scene one: Banning being put through manoeuvres by hawkish military pal-turned-private security contractor Danny Huston.

That said, there are diverting ideas to cancel out: as with Den of Thieves, Angel falls into the “lively mediocrity” category of Butler schlock, with one or two plot hikes that suggest the script meetings were well-refreshed. How else to explain our hero’s reunion with his grizzled hermit father (Nick Nolte, unintelligible), save that the producer-star also really enjoyed Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade? Or the finale, in which Huston’s hackers turn a hospital against itself?

Everything’s too dashed off to make much of these flickers of inspiration, but flickers it has, and Butler is becoming a low-key selling point, taking this nonsense laudably seriously. You’d draw the line at his Bad Boys, but he may have a Hard Target or Under Siege in him yet.

• Angel Has Fallen is released in the UK on 21 August, in Australia on 22 August and in the US on 23 August.


Mike McCahill

The GuardianTramp

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