Effort in third ‘Angel’ trilogy not bad, but result not terribly good

BY NEIL MORRIS, CN+R Film Critic
Posted 8/23/19

“Angel Has Fallen” has several unexpected surprises. Who knew that Gerard Butler would still be headlining action movies in 2019? Who knew that the “Fallen” film series would become a trilogy? Who knew that Nick Nolte was still around? And who knew that, as far as August action movies go, “Angel Has Fallen” isn’t that bad?

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Effort in third ‘Angel’ trilogy not bad, but result not terribly good

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Nick Nolte (left) and Gerard Butler star in 'Angel Has Fallen.'
Nick Nolte (left) and Gerard Butler star in 'Angel Has Fallen.'
Photo courtesy of Lions Gate Ent
Posted

“Angel Has Fallen” has several unexpected surprises. Who knew that Gerard Butler would still be headlining action movies in 2019? Who knew that the “Fallen” film series would become a trilogy? Who knew that Nick Nolte was still around? And who knew that, as far as August action movies go, “Angel Has Fallen” isn’t that bad?

Butler is back as Secret Service agent Mike Banning, last seen saving President Ben Asher for a second time in the repugnant “London Has Fallen.” Asher is out of office, replaced by Allan Trumbull (Morgan Freeman), who has worked his way up from Speaker of the House to Vice President and now POTUS over the course of three films. Banning is mulling whether to accept the post of Secret Service director and give up the field work that’s in his DNA when someone tries to make Banning’s decision for him. During a fishing expedition, Banning is framed for a swarm of drones that kill the entire POTUS Secret Service detail and lands Trumbull in a coma. Banning survives, which makes him the prime suspect, along with his DNA being found on the drone controller and millions of dollars discovered in an off-shore account bearing Banning’s name.

Arrested for the assassination attempt, Banning somehow escapes FBI custody (for reasons and circumstances too ridiculous to explain) and goes on the lam, taking refuge at the isolated woodland home of his estranged father, Clay (Nolte). It’s a hoot to see Nolte as a crotchety conspiracy-theorist living off the grid, gleefully exploding gobs of C-4 ringing his forest hideaway when anyone gets too close. Meanwhile, Banning is pursued on two sides, by an FBI agent (Jada Pinkett Smith) who slowly starts to believe Banning’s pleas of innocence and an Erik Prince-esque friend and former colleague (Danny Huston) who now runs a private military company.

“Angel Has Fallen” hardly breaks any new ground as far as government action thrillers go — anyone even vaguely familiar with these sorts of stories will suss out the bad guys 15 minutes into the movie. The right-wing fan fiction of “London Has Fallen” is mostly missing, although there’s a subplot involving false allegations of Russian aggression. At least this go-around, the baddies aren’t the lazy foil of brown-skinned terrorists but instead shadowy domestic actors. The story remains fairly taut during the lead-up to Banning’s frame-up. It’s when Banning decides to strike back when the plot goes from serviceable to silly. Over the final half of the film, as the villains try to take out Trumbull with a final hail of bullets and bombs, I spent more time trying to decide whether Nolte or Freeman is now showing his age more.

Director Ric Roman Waugh conspicuously borrows from “The Fugitive” and last-stand movies like “Rio Bravo” and “Assault on Precinct Thirteen.” Do not mistake “Angel Has Fallen” as being anywhere near the quality of those films. But at least the effort is there.

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